restricted access JEMCS Forum: What is Early Modern?
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JEMCS Forum:
What is Early Modern?

In the preceding issue of The Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, we began to publish a series of position papers coming from a variety of perspectives but all responding to the same important question, “What is Early Modern?” Before we began this series in JEMCS, we had already seen many powerful critiques of old-fashioned periodization: Jerry H. Bentley’s Shapes of World History, the articles in Lawrence Besserman’s collection The Challenge of Periodization, Kathleen Davis’s Periodization and Sovereignty, and Eric Hayot’s recent article, “Against Periodization,” in New Literary History, to name only a few examples. These and other revisionist considerations of periodization have been launched by a variety of scholars seeking to bridge or resist conventional chrono-labels like “medieval,” “Renaissance,” and “early modern.” Their work has encouraged an on-going interrogation of “early modernity,” one that demands a new set of responses and tactics that would move us beyond simply questioning the old period divisions. The brief essays published here not only point out the problems posed by rigid period boundaries, but they go on to suggest and implement new ways of describing the processes of cultural mixture and transformation that occurred in the time between the fourteenth and the nineteenth centuries. This journal’s commitment to cultural studies intensifies the urgency of our search for new approaches, new terminologies, and new historical methodologies that are consistent with the eclecticism, interdisciplinarity, and anti-Eurocentrism that define a cultural studies practice—one that goes beyond (or at least, beside) the study of canonical literary texts within traditional period frameworks. [End Page 126]

In our last issue, we began our dialogue on “early modernity” in JEMCS with four provocative papers by James Thompson, Mitchell Greenberg, Andrew McConnell Stott, and Laura Mandell. In this issue, we are pleased to present position papers by three important scholars, Jeffrey Cohen, Helen Cooper, and Nancy Warren, who might all be characterized as “medievalists,” but whose work resists or rejects, goes outside, goes beyond, or extends and redefines that traditional label.

Once again, the editors want our readers to know that we are eager to extend this multi-vocal discussion of early modernity by publishing responses and reactions to these position papers. Please send such responses to us at the following address:

Works Cited

Bentley, Jerry H. Shapes of World History in Twentieth-Century Scholarship (Essays on Global and Comparative History). Washington, DC: American Historical Association, 1996.
Besserman, Lawrence, ed. The Challenge of Periodization: Old Paradigms and New Perspectives. New York: Routledge, 1996.
Davis, Kathleen. Periodization and Sovereignty: How Ideas of Feudalism and Secularization Govern the Politics of Time. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2008.
Hayot, Eric. “Against Periodization; or, On Institutional Time.” New Literary History 42.4 (Autumn 2011): 739–56. [End Page 127]