Premodern Studies Seminar | Newberry

Premodern Studies Seminar

This seminar provides a forum for new approaches to classical, medieval, and early modern studies, allowing scholars from a range of disciplines to share works-in-progress with the broader community at the Center for Renaissance Studies. Our sessions feature discussion of a pre-circulated paper and a presentation of materials from the Newberry collections. We meet three times a year. Every meeting is free and open to the public, and participants are encouraged to attend as many seminars as they are able.

Organized by Timothy Crowley, Northern Illinois University; Megan Heffernan, DePaul University; Lydia Barnett, Northwestern University; and Christopher Fletcher, the Newberry.

Due to the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, some seminars may be postponed or held online. Please consult our website regularly for up-to-date information.

The 2020-2021 Premodern Studies Seminar call for proposals is now OPEN. Proposals will be accepted until June 15, 2020. The theme of the 2020-2021 seminars is “Premodern Crises.” We aim to explore the many ways in which ancient, medieval, and early modern people responded to disruptive events of all kinds: epidemic, war, famine, mass migration and displacement, religious schisms, ecological catastrophe, popular revolt, the rise and fall of empires, and crises of political legitimacy. How were these crises experienced by different segments of premodern societies throughout the world? What do the official and private responses to moments of crisis tell us about the structures and workings of premodern institutions? What impact did these crises have on thought, belief, art, and society? What categories other than “crisis” did premodern people use in order to understand such events? Finally, what does it mean to do scholarship on premodern crises in these times of radical uncertainty? How has the present moment forced or invited you to re-examine approaches to engaging with the past through research and teaching?

We welcome submissions on these questions from all fields of premodern studies. We invite works in progress that can be archival, theoretical, digital, or methodological. Global approaches are particularly welcome, as are those that seek to build communities in times of social distancing. Work will be pre-circulated, so that the majority of the seminar session will be devoted to discussion. In addition to a classroom seminar format, presenters may request a hands-on workshop with original materials from the collection; please indicate interest in this option in your proposal.

To submit a proposal, please complete this online submission form. To submit a proposal, visit our webform and upload a one-page proposal (200 words), a list of Newberry materials related to your research, a statement explaining the relationship of the paper to your other work, and a brief CV. The submission deadline is June 15, 2020.

If you have any questions about the seminar, please send an email to

Past Premodern Studies Seminars