The Psalms in Public and in Private | Newberry

The Psalms in Public and in Private

Latin Psalter with Hebrew letters, France or Flanders, c. 1480, Case MS 183

Latin Psalter with Hebrew letters, France or Flanders, c. 1480, Case MS 183

Research Methods Workshop for Early-Career Graduate Students
Friday, February 24, 2012

9 am to 5 pm

Directed by Michael Kuczynski, Tulane University
Center for Renaissance Studies Programs
Renaissance Graduate Programs

The Book of Psalms is unique among the texts of Scripture in having equally strong private and public significance. Over the course of this intensive one-day workshop, we will explore the psalter’s dual nature as a private and public text, from the Middle Ages through the eighteenth century, by way of the Newberry’s rich holdings in Psalms-related materials, including manuscripts (e.g. Books of Hours, Nicholas of Gorran’s commentary on the Psalms), incunables (e.g. a parallel Psalterium Graeco-Latinum cum canticis), and eighteenth-century printed books (e.g. Cotton Mather’s unfairly neglected translation of the Psalms from the Hebrew into blank verse, the Psalterium Americanum). The emphasis throughout will be on the coordination of information gleaned from rare manuscripts and books with more interpretive and speculative concerns in literary history and theory.

Learn more about the workshop director: Michael Kuczynski, Tulane University.

The workshop should be of interest to students from not only English but also Classics, Foreign Languages, History, and Religious Studies concentrations. In addition to the major theme of the relationship between the Psalms as a text that influenced private devotion and public life, the seminar will take up issues concerning literary periodization (e.g., the transition from medieval to early modern literary culture) and theory of biblical translation.

In addition to the larger interpretive and conceptual issues to be addressed by the seminar, students will be introduced to the fundamentals of the History of the Book as a discipline. This introduction will involve circulation, at the start of the seminar, of a short lexicon of twenty-five bibliographic terms (with definitions) relevant to the discussion of the manuscripts, incunables, and printed books at hand and deliberate coordination of those terms with hands-on analysis of these items, under supervision, in the Newberry rare books reading room. The seminar, then, will be of special value to Master’s students coming from programs that either do not offer a Bibliography and Methods gateway course or that only offer such instruction at the doctoral level.

Printable flyer to post and distribute


8:30: Coffee and continental breakfast

9 - 10: First workshop session

  • Preliminary Matters: What is a Psalter? What is a Psalm? Who is the Psalmist? The chronology and numbering of psalms.
  • Davidic personae: King David; David the sinner; David the penitent; David the prophet; David the poet.

10:15 - 11:15: Rare books session 1

11:30 - 12:15: Second workshop session

  • The Psalms and the language of prayer: imitating David

12:15 - 1:15: Catered lunch

1:15 - 1:50: Participants obtain reader cards/library tour and orientation

1:50 - 2:30: Third workshop session

  • Psalm exegesis: teaching and learning from David

2:45 - 3:45: Rare books session 2

4 - 5: Fourth workshop session

  • The Psalms in translation: desire for Davidic origins

Travel funding

Faculty and graduate students of Center for Renaissance Studies consortium institutions may be eligible to apply for travel funds to attend CRS programs or to do research at the Newberry Library. Each member university sets its own policies and deadlines; contact your Representative Council member in advance for details.

Learn more about Center for Renaissance Studies programs for graduate students.

Cost and Registration Information 


Enrollment is limited to a maximum of twelve participants. Students in their first year of a master’s or Ph.D. program in any discipline of medieval, Renaissance, or early modern studies are eligible to apply. Please note if you are a first year student under the “prerequisites” section of the enrollment form. No prior knowledge of the Psalms or the various languages in which they circulated through the eighteenth century is required for participation. Priority will be given to students from Center for Renaissance Studies consortium schools. 

Enrollment is now closed.