Early Modern Studies is the inquiry into the period from roughly 1400-1700, stretching from before Gutenberg, Columbus and Luther until the stabilization of the empires of Portugal, Britain and Spain. It encompasses the history and cultures of the Mediterranean and Atlantic worlds, including those precedent cultures that contributed to cultural life this pivotal period that shaped the modern world. The term “early modern” thus includes the medieval cultures of Catholic Europe, the revival of the texts of Ancient Greece and Rome, the Inca and Aztec Empires, and their transition into Spanish colonial period, as well as the coexistence of Islamic, Jewish, and Christian cultures in the Iberian Peninsula.
In the wider academic community, this period of great creativity and cultural transformation is studied and taught by scholars of a variety of fields: Art History, History, English, French, Spanish, Italian, Theater History, and the history of religion, to name a few. Because all these fields study a common set of issues, these scholars often attend the same conferences and publish in the same journals. However, academic structures impose a separation on the classes we teach, listing them by traditionally defined departments. This means that, particularly at a large university, each individual professor points toward bordering fields, and a student may be interested in the period and choose classes to explore that interest, but they would have to 64 search out those classes all on their own, and their professors would have no idea that the students are learning from those adjacent fields.
The terms “Medieval Studies” and Renaissance Studies” are sometimes used to describe this period, but they have a Eurocentric effect, and given the fact that one of our group is a specialist in Indigenous Pre-Columbian Art, we have opted for the term “Early Modern Studies” which is more inclusive of both sides of the Atlantic.
- To cultivate student understanding and conversation about the ways in which the early modern period can be approached from various perspectives.
- To develop student awareness of some of the ways in which the early modern period influenced our current cultural world.
- To develop both a broad and a focused student exploration of the history and creativity of the early modern period on either side of the Atlantic Ocean.