Series Spotlight – ReFormations: Medieval and Early Modern

ReFormations : Medieval and Early Modern – University of Notre Dame Press

Describe the series in 50-100 words

The series is entitled Re-Formations: Medieval and Early Modern. We seek to consider, intervene in, and retell narratives about medieval and early modern literary history and culture, thereby re-forming, rewriting and undoing many of the received ways in which these historical periods have defined each other and been defined in relation to each other.  

What are the aims of the series? Why/how is it important?

The academy and related institutional structures (graduate courses, the job “market”, journals, and university presses) work with long received narratives that made a strong separation between the Medieval and Renaissance periods. This was partly because later epochs defined themselves by decisive breaks with earlier eras. The Middle Ages were dark, because they had not had the “re-birth” of neo-classicism, and so on.  The alleged rebirth of  “true” religion in the form of Lutheran and Calvinist Christianity was seen as decisive in the invention of “freedom” of the individual from oppression by the church and indeed in the discovery of interiority. It was assumed that the generator of the forms of liberalism emerging from the sixteenth century into the modern academy.  Or the Middle Ages  were not “modern” in other ways that defined the break of early modernity. Yet such narratives bury other continuities and discontinuities which might help us see relevant transformations and reformations in a clearer light. 

These are our histories—they are stories about culture, religion, places, laws-that might make us rethink and revise our place in the world. 

Who is the main audience for the series?

Scholars and students of Medieval and Renaissance/Early Modern Culture, English Studies and European Culture, and since the series is interdisciplinary we expect different books to address adjacent areas of Legal Studies, Theatre Studies, Legal Studies, Urban Studies, regional history and so on where relevant. We also seek to encourage writing spritely and engaging enough to be of more general interest to curious students of history and culture.

What was the catalyst for the series? Why was it started?

We felt there was no obvious place for research and writing that worked across the medieval and Renaissance/Early Modern periods. That meant that vital narratives and histories were not being addressed, confined as they were to the strong intellectual pull of periodization. The late Patrick Collinson had for a long time talked about a “long Reformation” that he dated from 1100-1700, but most publishers had series or lists that could not or did not address it. 

How do you create and maintain a series? How do you select new titles for a series?

The fun thing here is that we are three editors working together with overlapping interests, each of us engaged in various ways in exploring work  in the “long Reformation.”  Everything has to be agreed between the three of us, and every manuscript receives collective consideration.  

We solicited most of the work at the beginning of the series, and now that the series is becoming more well known we receive quite a few manuscripts, and we keep our eyes and ears out for suitable work.  We encourage people to get in touch with us to have a conversation about their work even before it is finished, and we work with Steven, our excellent editor at Notre Dame to issue contracts, usually on the basis of a couple of chapters. 

We’ve evolved our criteria of selection too. We want the books in the series to move across the great divide, but there is no set balance of chapters, say on “medieval” and “early modern” since these categories are in play. We talk of “periodic implication” which is our lingo for work that has implications over a longue duree. 

What can people learn from the series?

We’ve published some remarkably innovative books. They cover genres: pastoral, allegory, for example, modes of writing such as translation (Psalms), institutions of church, law, theatre, different social groups such as artisans and merchants, canonical writers such as Chaucer, regions as opposed to nations, and above all settled and received narratives of change or continuity. We also include work which explores some shaping narratives in historical theology, for example, ones concerning the understandings of election, of predestination, and reprobation. 

What’s next for the series? Is there anything you would like to add to it?

We would love to continue building on the work of the series. We think there is work to be done!  We encourage any inventive and well written work in “the long Reformation.”

Series Editors:

David Aers: aers@duke.edu

James Simpson: jsimpson@fas.harvard.edu

Sarah Beckwith: sarah.beckwith@duke.edu

Staff editorial contact:

Stephen Little: slittle2@nd.edu