Beyond Words: The Unknowable and the Unutterable in early modernity
1st June 2018: CREMS, University of York
This conference will explore the parameters of the Unknowable and the Unutterable in early modernity. It will range across the theological, the literary and the scientific, to attend to what early modern thinkers deemed beyond what they could find words for. If this apophatic inheritance – the language of what can’t be said - was a theological-mystical mode of thinking, what happened to it in the post-reformation climate of thought? Did natural philosophy understand the knowable limits of nature in the manner of the apophatic? How did emergent science negotiate the edges of what could be thought? What uses did early modern writers find for the apophatic traditions, Dionysius, Cusa, or John Scotus Eriugena? How did early modern poetry attend to the ineffable and that which was beyond words? The conference invites papers on the unknowable, the unutterable, the unthinkable and the unsayable, all broadly considered, in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, whether English or European.
Keynote speaker: William Franke (Vanderbildt)
Author of On What Cannot be Said and A Philosophy of the Unsayable (among others).
Please send abstracts (c. 250 words) to Kevin Killeen (email@example.com), by Friday 10th November (or send expressions of interest).
The Thomas Browne Seminar is a forum for exploring the intellectual history of the seventeenth century, the relations between its apparently incompatible disciplines and the social, scientific and political contexts in which they arose. It is not, by any means, restricted to Thomas Browne himself, but also examines more broadly the intellectual culture in the mid-seventeenth century.
Papers are invited on any aspect of mid-century culture, the history of science and scholarship, religious and antiquarian thought, natural history, politics and the history of trivia, in particular, but not restricted to, those related to Browne. As the seminar will involve an ongoing series of meetings, ideas for future seminars are also invited.
The TBS is run jointly by the Department of English and Related Literature and the Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies. Thomas Browne was a significant figure in the scholarly and scientific community of the seventeenth century, who nevertheless defies categorisation and whose blend of humanism, scholasticism and natural philosophy is testament to the intellectual flux of the period.
New Paperback edition of Browne, Jan 2018
Thomas Browne: Selected Writings (21st-Century Oxford Authors), ed. Kevin Killeen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018)
Sir Thomas Browne Day !
A new Norwich-based Thomas Browne Society is launching this year, with a series of event on 19 October. This includes a ‘City of Stories’ blog, a talk by Claire Preston at the Norwich Millennium Library, an OED Browne ‘Word of the Day’, a tour of St Peter Mancroft, a performance and a concert.
Conference: The Edition as Argument, 1550-1750
Queen Mary, University of London
16th - 17th July 2014
From the philology of Lorenzo Valla to twentieth-century debates over copy-text to the new frontier of digital humanities, textual scholars have always argued over the making of meaning. Indeed, argument is integral to the practice of editing: to privilege one reading is to demote another. Bibliographical, historical, and textual choices: these ineluctably and often invisibly inform our larger understanding of the text, the author, and the culture from which they emerge. They can destabilise or confirm our most basic assumptions, from a single word – what is “blew”? – to the nature of the book: what is a text? what is an author? what is an edition?
This landmark two-day conference will draw together experienced and new editors, to analyse and to celebrate editions in progress and to inspire a new generation of editors and editions. Hosted by the AHRC-funded Complete Works of Sir Thomas Browne (forthcoming, OUP), the event will explore the future of editing in universities and offer perspectives from curators and publishers.
AHRC award for Oxford Works of Sir Thomas Browne
The AHRC have awarded a grant of c. £946,000 to bring to completion a new 8 volume Oxford University Press edition of The Works of Sir Thomas Browne. The grant, which runs for 5 years, is a collaboration between Universities of Birmingham (Claire Preston, PI), York (Kevin Killeen) and Cambridge (Andrew Zurcher). The edition, under the general editorship of Claire Preston, will include authoritative editions of all Browne’s published works together with his correspondence and his voluminous notebooks. Critically and textually annotated, the edition will be available in print and in electronic formats. The grant includes provision for two postdoctoral research assistants and two Ph.D. studentships. This international collaboration involves a team of scholars, working on Thomas Browne. The editors are Reid Barbour (North Carolina), Brooke Conti (SUNY Brockport), Anne Dunan-Page (Aix), Felicity Henderson (Royal Society), Kevin Killeen (York), Antonia Moon (British Library), Kathryn Murphy (Oxford), Claire Preston (Cambridge), William West (Northwestern), Jessica Wolfe (North Carolina), and Andrew Zurcher (Cambridge).
The Complete Works project will be inaugurated with a single-volume Works of Browne, published in the new series, Oxford 21st Century Authors: Sir Thomas Browne (OUP, 2013) edited by Kevin Killeen (York). http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199640430.do
News on Browne and the project can be found on the website of the ‘Sir Thomas Browne Seminar’: http://www.york.ac.uk/english/news-events/browne/
The Oxford University Press Complete Works of Sir Thomas Browne, gen. ed. Claire Preston
A major new edition of the complete works of Sir Thomas Browne has been commissioned by Oxford University Press, due to be published in 2017.
Thomas Browne: 21st-Century Oxford Authors, ed. Kevin Killeen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014) Paperback 2018
From the blurb
The Browne volume in the 21st-Century Oxford Authors series offers a comprehensive selection of the work of the author of some of the most brilliant and delirious prose in English Literature. Lauded by writers ranging from Coleridge to Virginia Woolf, from Borges to W.G. Sebal, Sir Thomas Browne's distinct style and the musicality of his phrasing have long been seen as a pinnacle of early modern prose. However, it is Browne's range of subject matter that makes him truly distinct. His writings include the hauntingly meditative Urn-Burial, in which the broken shards of urns found in a field lead him onto a history of mortality and oblivion, and the elaborate Escheresque architecture of The Garden of Cyrus, a work that borders on a madness of infinite attern. Religio Medici, probably Browne's most enduringly famous work, is at once autobiography, intricate religious-scientific paradox, and a monument of tolerance in the era of the English civil war. This volume also includes his Pseudodoxia Epidemica, an encyclopaedia of error which contains within its vast remit the entire intellectual landscape of the seventeenth century - its science, its natural history, its painting, its history, its geography and its biblical oddities. Across this range of material, Browne brings his lucid, baroque and stylish prose to bear, together with a carefully poised wit. This volume contains almost all of the author's published work, as well as much of his posthumous writing, together with detailed endnotes and an expansive introduction to Browne's work and life.
Sir Thomas Browne: A Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013)
From the blurb
Sir Thomas Browne: A Life is the first full-scale biography of the extraordinary prose artist, physician, and polymath. With the help of recent archival discoveries, the biography recasts each phase of Browne's life (1605-82) and situates his incomparable writings within the diverse intellectual and social contexts in which he lived, including London, Winchester, Oxford, Montpellier, Padua, Leiden, Halifax, and Norwich. The book makes the case that, as his contemporaries fervently believed, Browne influenced the intellectual and religious direction of seventeenth-century England in singularly rich and dynamic ways.
Special attention is paid in the biography to Browne's medical vocation but also to his place within the scientific revolution. New information is offered regarding his childhood in London, his European travels and medical studies, the setting in which he first wrote Religio Medici, his impact on readers during the English civil wars, and the contemporary view of his medical practice. Overall, the image of Browne that emerges is far bolder and more cosmopolitan, less complacent and provincial, than biographers have assumed ever since Samuel Johnson doubted Browne's claim that his life up to age thirty resembled a romantic fiction filled withmiracles and fables.
Winner, Council for College and University English Book Award, 2010
Shortlisted for the History of Science Society Watson Davis and Helen Miles Davis Prize 2010
From the blurb:
This book addresses one of the most enigmatic of seventeenth century writers, Thomas Browne (1605-1682), whose voracious intellectual pursuits provide an unparalleled insight into how early modern scholarly culture understood the relations between its disciplines. Browne's work encompasses biblical commentary, historiography, natural history, classical philology, artistic propriety and an encyclopaedic coverage of natural philosophy. This book traces the intellectual climate in which such disparate interests could cohere, locating Browne within the cultural and political matrices of his time. While Browne is most frequently remembered for the magnificence of his prose and his temperamental poise, qualities that knit well with the picture of a detached, apolitical figure, this work argues that Browne's significance emerges most fully in the context of contemporary battles over interpretative authority, within the intricately linked fields of biblical exegesis, scientific thought, and politics. Killeen's work centres on a reassessment of the scope and importance of Browne's most elaborate text, Pseudodoxia Epidemica, his vast encyclopaedia of error with its mazy series of investigations and through this explores the multivalent nature of early-modern enquiry.
‘The judges were impressed not only by the intellectual breadth and depth of this study, but also by the evident respect and affection for its subject that informs the book throughout. Sir Thomas Browne’s Pseudodoxia Epidemica (or Vulgar Errors) (1642-72) is an extraordinary dense and eclectic work that spans the fields of biblical scholarship, philology, history, politics and science. Kevin Killeen explores each of these fields in impressive depth and detail to make sense of Browne’s work for modern readers. His book is both a remarkable intellectual achievement and also a labour of love which illuminates the learning and passion that underpin Browne’s enquiries, but makes intelligible the intimate connections that Browne and his contemporaries understood to exist between different forms of knowledge.'
Judges citation from the Council for College and University English Book Award, 2010
Sir Thomas Browne: The World Proposed (Oxford University Press, 2008)
From the blurb:
Doctor, linguist, scientist, natural historian, and writer of what is probably the most stunning prose in the English language, Sir Thomas Browne was a virtuoso in learning whose many interests form a representative portrait of his age. To understand the period which we more usually refer to as the Civil War, the Restoration, or the Scientific Revolution, we need to understand parts of the intellectual and spiritual background that are often neglected and which Browne magnificently figures forth.
This collection of essays about all aspects of Thomas Browne's work and thought is the first such volume to appear in 25 years. It offers the specialist and the student a wide-ranging array of essays by an international team of leading scholars in seventeenth-century literary studies who extend our understanding of this extremely influential and representative early-modern polymath by embracing recent developments in the field, including literary-scientific relations, the development of Anglican spirituality, civil networks of intellectual exchange, the rise of antiquarianism, and Browne's own legacy in modern literature.
For the Contents, please see the Browne bibliography under Resources.
From the blurb:
For many years, scholarship on Thomas Browne (1605-1682) saw him as tangential to his period’s thought and writing: an obscure and quaint stylist, detached from the turbulence of mid-17th century England. This volume contributes to the current reevalution of Browne’s involvement in his times: identifying his political commitments, milieu, reading, and readers. The essays collected in this volume place Browne’s works in unexpected contexts - in Holland, Poland and Germany, in Restoration politics, in publishing history and medical theory. It presents new research into his reputation in the later 17th century, his manuscripts, medical dissertation, association with the Hartlib circle and habits of revision. Essays on familiar works place them in new light, while readings of his letters, notebooks, and lesser works broaden our understanding of Browne as a writer. The result is a fuller picture of Browne’s significance in 17th-century European culture.
Contributors include: Eric Achermann, Hugh Adlington, Reid Barbour, Harm Beukers, Siobhán Collins, Louise Denmead, Karen Edwards, Doris Einsiedel, Kevin Killeen, Mary Ann Lund, Philip Major, Antonia Moon, Kathryn Murphy, Brent Nelson, and Claire Preston.
For the Contents , please see the Browne bibliography under Resources .
Thomas Browne and the Writing of Early Modern Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005)
Winner of the 2005 British Academy Crawshay Prize
From the British Academy citation:
Behind Claire Preston’s Thomas Browne and the Writing of Early Modern Science, and informing it throughout, lies a rich background of reading and research, some of it – as with her investigation of the Renaissance obsession with collections (so-called 'cabinets of curiosities') - published previously in their own right as articles. Browne is of course, one of the great English prose stylists. That has long been recognized. Dr. Preston pays due and discriminating attention to the way Browne writes, and those characteristics of his prose that make him so strikingly individual and memorable in a period (after all) of other great prose writers. But she has been able as well and with consummate skill to establish and clarify his position as a man striving for encyclopaedic knowledge while simultaneously despairing of ever being able to attain it.
Central to her book is the concept of 'civility', in the sense of 'civil behaviour', as a key to Browne’s work and thinking: an ideal that extends far beyond its ordinary social sense to encompass intellectual collaboration and exchange, selfless investigation, and the bringing to bear upon all the varied spheres of human enquiry, whether scientific or otherwise, of such fundamental values as courtesy, modesty, honesty and generosity.
Refreshingly, Dr. Preston focuses less upon Browne’s early book Religio Medici (although she writes excellently about it) as upon the later and more important but less well-known Pseudodoxia Epidemica (or, Vulgar Errors), Urn-Burial, and the magnificent Garden of Cyrus. Andrew Hadfield, reviewing Thomas Browne and the Writing of Early Modern Science recently in the TLS described it there as an 'engaging, intelligent and often Brownian study', 'learned and witty', 'a fitting tribute to its subject'. It is certainly a book eminently deserving of the Academy’s Crawshay prize.
Manfred Pfister (ed. and trans.)
Thomas Browne, Hydriotaphia-Urnenbetattung und andere Schriften (EDITION SIGNAThUR, 2014)
Eine Auswahl der Schriften des bedeutenden englischen Arztes, Universalgelehrten und Prosakünstlers aus dem 17. Jahrhundert. Erstmalig in dieser Zusammenstellung mit dem Vorwort 'Sir Thomas Browne und das Salz der Erde'; Pseudodoxia Epidemica (Auszüge), Hydriotaphia - Urnenbestattung (zweisprachig), Der Garten des Cyrus (Auszüge), Brief an einen Freund, Über Träume, Musaeum Clausum, Musaeum Criticum, Bibliographie.
This bibliography consists of scholarly works on Browne, although it is by no means complete and will be updated at intervals. Titles may appear in more than one category. News of publications or notable omissions gratefully received: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Useful editions of Browne’s work are available online at James Eason’s University of Chicago site. However he does warn that the texts have only been partially proof-read. It also includes contemporary responses to Religio Medici and Pseudodoxia Epidemica and much else besides.
Also of use are the following:
Legal statements disclaimer
The Thomas Browne Seminar makes every practical effort to ensure that the information it provides on this website is accurate and up-to-date. This website contains hypertext links to external websites controlled or maintained by parties other than the Thomas Browne Seminar, for which it is not responsible.
Copyright of the contents of these web pages is controlled by the Thomas Browne Seminar, except where noted (such as Book announcements). Please feel free to view, copy and print documents within this website, but we would appreciate it if you would acknowledge the source of the material. Please contact Dr Kevin Killeen in case of any query.
Epistolary Cultures: Letters and letter-writing in early modern Europe
18th-19th March 2016: CREMS, University of York,
Organisers: Freya Sierhuis and Kevin Killeen (and only vaguely a Thomas Browne Seminar)
Magic and Intellectual History
Thursday 5th March 2015, Treehouse, Humanities Research Centre,
28 May 2014, Treehouse, Humanities Research Centre
Northern Renaissance Roses Seminar, 9th-10th May 2014
Friday: Treehouse, Humanities Research Centre
Saturday: York Minster Old Palace Library
Concert by the Minster Minstrels
Northern Renaissance Roses Seminar, 2014
29 May 2013, CREMS, University of York
23rd May 2012, University of York
18th March, 2010, University of York
Bill Sherman (York) Mapping the World of Knowledge: Hernando Colón and the Biblioteca Colombina
Lisa Skogh (Stockholm) Library of Swedish queen Hedwig Eleonora
Daniel Starza-Smith (UCL) Edward, second Viscount Conway
Hugh Adlington (Birmingham) On Donne’s Library
Piers Brown (York) On Donne’s Library
University of York
Wednesday 3rd June, 2009
University of Leeds
Saturday 21st April 2007
Birkbeck College, University of London
Saturday 8th April 2006
Department of English, University of Leiden
Thursday and Friday, 27- 28 October 2005
Organised by Richard Todd and Jan Frans van Dijkhuizen (University of Leiden)