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The Roman Inquisition on the Stage of Italy, c. 1590-1640

By Thomas F. Mayer

From the moment of its founding in 1542, the Roman Inquisition acted as a political machine. Although inquisitors in earlier centuries had operated somewhat independently of papal authority, the gradual bureaucratization of the Roman Inquisition permitted the popes increasing license to establish and exercise direct control over local tribunals—with varying degrees of success. In particular, Pope Urban VIII's aggressive drive to establish papal control through the agency of the Inquisition played out differently among the Italian states, whose local inquisitions varied in number and secular power. Rome's efforts to bring the Venetians to heel largely failed in spite of the interdict of 1606, and Venice maintained lay control of most religious matters. Although Florence and Naples resisted papal intrusions into their jurisdictions, on the other hand, they were eventually brought to answer directly to Rome—due in no small part to Urban VIII's subversions of the law.

The Roman Inquisition on the Stage of Italy, c. 1590-1640 provides a richly detailed account of the ways the Roman Inquisition operated to serve the papacy's long-standing political aims in Naples, Venice, and Florence. Drawing on the Inquisition's own records, diplomatic correspondence, local documents, newsletters, and other sources, Thomas F. Mayer sheds new light on papal interdicts and high-profile court cases that signaled significant shifts in inquisitorial authority for each Italian state. Alongside his earlier volume, The Roman Inquisition: A Papal Bureaucracy and Its Laws in the Age of Galileo, this masterful study extends and develops our understanding of the Inquisition as a political and legal institution.

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The Roman Inquisition

Trying Galileo

By Thomas F. Mayer

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Shakespeare's Shrine

The Bard's Birthplace and the Invention of Stratford-upon-Avon

By Julia Thomas

Anyone who has paid the entry fee to visit Shakespeare's Birthplace on Henley Street in Stratford-upon-Avon—and there are some 700,000 a year who do so—might be forgiven for taking the authenticity of the building for granted. The house, as the official guidebooks state, was purchased by Shakespeare's father, John Shakespeare, in two stages in 1556 and 1575, and William was born and brought up there. The street itself might have changed through the centuries—it is now largely populated by gift and tea shops—but it is easy to imagine little Will playing in the garden of this ancient structure, sitting in the inglenook in the kitchen, or reaching up to turn the Gothic handles on the weathered doors.

In Shakespeare's Shrine Julia Thomas reveals just how fully the Birthplace that we visit today is a creation of the nineteenth century. Two hundred years after Shakespeare's death, the run-down house on Henley Street was home to a butcher shop and a pub. Saved from the threat of an ignominious sale to P. T. Barnum, it was purchased for the English nation in 1847 and given the picturesque half-timbered façade first seen in a fanciful 1769 engraving of the building. A perfect confluence of nationalism, nostalgia, and the easy access afforded by rail travel turned the house in which the Bard first drew breath into a major tourist attraction, one artifact in a sea of Shakespeare handkerchiefs, eggcups, and door-knockers.

It was clear to Victorians on pilgrimage to Stratford just who Shakespeare was, how he lived, and to whom he belonged, Thomas writes, and the answers were inseparable from Victorian notions of class, domesticity, and national identity. In Shakespeare's Shrine she has written a richly documented and witty account of how both the Bard and the Warwickshire market town of his birth were turned into enduring symbols of British heritage—and of just how closely contemporary visitors to Stratford are following in the footsteps of their Victorian predecessors.

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The Socratic Turn

Knowledge of Good and Evil in an Age of Science

By Dustin Sebell

The Socratic Turn addresses the question of whether we can acquire genuine knowledge of good and evil, right and wrong. Reputedly, Socrates was the first philosopher to make the attempt. But Socrates was a materialistic natural scientist in his youth, and it was only much later in life—after he had rejected materialistic natural science—that he finally turned, around the age of forty, to the examination of ordinary moral and political opinions, or to moral-political philosophy so understood.

Through a consideration of Plato's account of Socrates' intellectual development, and with a view to relevant works of the pre-Socratics, Xenophon, Aristotle, Hesiod, Homer, and Aristophanes, Dustin Sebell reproduces the course of thought that carried Socrates from materialistic natural science to moral-political philosophy. By doing so, he seeks to recover an all but forgotten approach to the question of justice, one still worthy of being called scientific.

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The Strangers Book

The Human of African American Literature

By Lloyd Pratt

The Strangers Book explores how various nineteenth-century African American writers radically reframed the terms of humanism by redefining what it meant to be a stranger. Rejecting the idea that humans have easy access to a common reserve of experiences and emotions, they countered the notion that a person can use a supposed knowledge of human nature to claim full understanding of any other person's life. Instead they posited that being a stranger, unknown and unknowable, was an essential part of the human condition. Affirming the unknown and unknowable differences between people, as individuals and in groups, laid the groundwork for an ethical and democratic society in which all persons could find a place. If everyone is a stranger, then no individual or class can lay claim to the characteristics that define who gets to be a human in political and public arenas.

Lloyd Pratt focuses on nineteenth-century African American writing and publishing venues and practices such as the Colored National Convention movement and literary societies in Nantucket and New Orleans. Examining the writing of Frederick Douglass in tandem with that of the francophone free men of color who published the first anthology of African American poetry in 1845, he contends these authors were never interested in petitioning whites for sympathy or for recognition of their humanity. Instead, they presented a moral imperative to develop practices of stranger humanism in order to forge personal and political connections based on mutually acknowledged and always evolving differences.

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Theatrical Nation

Jews and Other Outlandish Englishmen in Georgian Britain

By Michael Ragussis

Perhaps the most significant development of the Georgian theater was its multiplication of ethnic, colonial, and provincial character types parading across the stage. In Theatrical Nation, Michael Ragussis opens up an archive of neglected plays and performances to examine how this flood of domestic and colonial others showcased England in general and London in particular as the center of an increasingly complex and culturally mixed nation and empire, and in this way illuminated the shifting identity of a newly configured Great Britain.

In asking what kinds of ideological work these ethnic figures performed and what forms were invented to accomplish this work, Ragussis concentrates on the most popular of the "outlandish Englishmen," the stage Jew, Scot, and Irishman. Theatrical Nation understands these stage figures in the context of the government's controversial attempts to merge different ethnic and national groups through the 1707 Act of Union with Scotland, the Jewish Naturalization Bill of 1753, and the Act of Union with Ireland of 1800.

Exploring the significant theatrical innovations that illuminate the central anxieties shared by playhouse and nation, Ragussis considers how ethnic identity was theatricalized, even as it moved from stage to print. By the early nineteenth century, Anglo-Irish and Scottish novelists attempted to deconstruct the theater's ethnic stereotypes while reimagining the theatricality of interactions between English and ethnic characters. An important shift took place as the novel's cross-ethnic love plot replaced the stage's caricatured male stereotypes with the beautiful ethnic heroine pursued by an English hero.

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Thinking Sex with the Early Moderns

By Valerie Traub

What do we know about early modern sex? And how do we know it? How, when, and why does sex become history? In Thinking Sex with the Early Moderns, Valerie Traub addresses these questions and, in doing so, reorients the ways in which historians and literary critics, feminists and queer theorists approach sexuality and its history. Her answers offer interdisciplinary strategies for confronting the difficulties of making sexual knowledge.

Based on the premise that producing sexual knowledge is difficult because sex itself is often inscrutable, Thinking Sex with the Early Moderns leverages the notions of opacity and impasse to explore barriers to knowledge about sex in the past. Traub argues that the obstacles in making sexual history can illuminate the difficulty of knowing sexuality. She also argues that these impediments themselves can be adopted as a guiding principle of historiography: sex may be good to think with, not because it permits us access but because it doesn't.

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Unquiet Things

Secularism in the Romantic Age

By Colin Jager

In Great Britain during the Romantic period, governmental and social structures were becoming more secular; religion was privatized and depoliticized. But although the discretionary nature of religious practice permitted spiritual freedom and social differentiation, secular arrangements produced new anxieties. Unquiet Things investigates the social and political disorders that arise within modern secular cultures, and their expression in works by Jane Austen, Horace Walpole, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, and Percy Shelley among others.

Emphasizing secularism rather than religion as its primary analytic category, Unquiet Things demonstrates that literary writing possesses a distinctive ability to register the discontents that characterize the mood of secular modernity. Colin Jager places Romantic-era writers within the context of a longer series of transformations begun in the Reformation, and identifies three ways in which romanticism and secularism interact: the melancholic mood brought on by movements of reform, the minoritizing capacity of literature to measure the disturbances produced by new arrangements of state power, and a prospective romantic thinking Jager calls "after the secular." The poems, novels, and letters of the romantic period reveal uneasy traces of the spiritual past, haunted by elements that trouble secular politics; at the same time, they imagine new and more equitable possibilities for the future. In the twenty-first century, Jager contends, we are still living within the terms of the romantic response to secularism, when literature and philosophy first took account of the consequences of modernity.

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