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The Brazen World: Brass, Making, and Writing in the English Renaissance

Thursday 18 February 2021, 5.15PM

Speaker(s): Katherine Hunt (University of York)

This paper investigates the meanings and resonances of brass and bronze in English Renaissance literature. The qualities of bronze—durable, resonant, hybrid, impenetrable, lively, cozening, third-best—made it a material that was often put together with writing, forming a comparison which could test out the characteristics of each. Above all, I argue, brass was associated with the labour of making, and it was put to use in the works of many early modern authors who attempted to figure out just what kind of a maker a poet might be. I draw on examples from across and beyond the English Renaissance, and focus in particular on how John Donne thinks about bronze and making in his Devotions upon Emergent Occasions. I suggest, tentatively but with hope, that something about the in-the-middle-ness of brass and its manufacture might help us to get through unsettled times. 

Katherine Hunt joined the Department of English and Related Literature at York in 2020 from the University of Oxford, where she was a Career Development Fellow at The Queen’s College. She has also taught at the University of East Anglia and at Birkbeck where, at the London Consortium, she completed her PhD. Previously, Katherine worked as an Assistant Curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum and Tate Britain.

Katherine’s work on early modern literary cultures is multidisciplinary and international, and she is excited to join the interdisciplinary communities in the Department and at the Centre for Early Modern Studies. She draws in particular from the histories of art and science in her current book, The Brazen World, which shows how bronze, brass, and processes of making illuminate ideas about reading and writing in the English Renaissance.

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Location: Zoom