English Department Faculty Work Discussion Series: Julianne Werlin’s “Demographic Approaches to Early Modern Literature”


Speaker(s): Julianne Werlin

Please join us at noon on November 6, 2020 for the third installment of our English Department Faculty Work Discussion Series!

Though COVID-19 makes it impossible to gather together in person this fall, we can gather virtually to discuss recent faculty work on literature. This discussion series is intended for anyone interested in the work of the department. Participants will generally be asked to read a short text beforehand; at the discussion, the faculty member whose work is featured will provide some short opening comments, and then the rest of the meeting will be devoted to discussion.

English Department Faculty Work Discussion Series:
Julianne Werlin’s
Demographic Approaches to Early Modern Literature”

November 6, 2020
12:00 - 1:15 pm

Professor Werlin will use this lunchtime event to describe and solicit advice about a project she has begun work on: an attempt to set the literary history of early-modern England in demographic context by creating a prosopography of writers. Prosopography, that is, collective biography, is a technique that seeks to discover and describe the characteristics of a particular group. Prosopographies can take a variety of forms, but Professor Werlin is interested in tracking major life events and social categories, including life expectancy, marriage and procreation, class, birthplace and place or places of residence, religion, sex, and a few others. This project is still in the data collection phase -- itself as much a qualitative as quantitative endeavor -- which Professor Werlin is working on with the invaluable help of Jane Harwell. 

Because this project hasn't yet led to any articles, we are distributing an earlier paper, "Love Poetry and Periodization," which sparked Werlin's interest in demographic analyses of literary history and led her to think there would be value in taking a prosopographic approach.  In this paper, she makes a case for interpreting changing erotic values in Renaissance love poetry in relation to the shift in the marriage rate in sixteenth and seventeenth century England. Professor Werlin hopes this can be the starting point for a conversation about demography and literary history, sociological approaches to the author, the problems of literary and historical categorization and category formation, and any other fundamental questions of literary scholarship we can address in 75 minutes.

To sign up for this discussion with Julianne Werlin, please click here.


Duke English

Photo of Julianne Werlin


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