GW MEMSI Press Release

Readers of this blog have known about GW MEMSI for quite some time, but the university just issued the official press release:


Multi-Disciplinary Institute Focuses on Early Europe’s Global Context

WASHINGTON – The George Washington University’s newly created Institute for Medieval and Early Modern Studies brings together scholars and students in history, English, French, and Italian to foster new research and exchange ideas. The institute solidifies a rapidly building scholarly community and strengthens existing partnerships between GW and other organizations, such as the Folger Shakespeare Library, where GW students have access to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare materials and other rare works for study and research.

Inspired by the University’s surroundings of Washington, D.C, the institute focuses on early Europe within an intercultural, transnational context. Its programs will prepare both undergraduates and graduates for advanced degrees through significant research projects and will illustrate the important role humanities research has in the world.

“Medieval and early modern Europe was influenced by a multitude of languages and cultures. Cities such as London were cosmopolitan, but they also were culturally complex places animated by international phenomena like war, commerce, religion, immigration, and colonization,” said Jeffrey J. Cohen, professor and chair of GW’s Department of English and director of the institute. “Cities, such as Washington, D.C., still struggle with these issues today. Having the institute in the center of the nation’s capital, spurs us to think about the past in the context of our historical moment.”

Gail Paster, director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, said, “GW’s new Institute for Medieval and Early Modern Studies is cause for celebration. This period in European cultural history was formative of our own moment. We at the Folger Shakespeare Library look forward with great excitement to future collaborations with GW’s faculty and students. The period’s rich history, literature, and theatre continue to hold great interest for thoughtful Americans.”

GW’s Institute for Medieval and Early Modern Studies is the first major humanities initiative funded under the University’s Research Enhancement Fund. Faculty members hope to host a major colloquium, regular research meetings, and an international conference, as well as publish publications. Topics of study include the slave trade and the circum-Atlantic; violence and cultural differentiation; consumption and trade; and the interactions among Christians, Jews, and Muslims. The institute also is supported by faculty and scholars from American University, Georgetown University, George Mason University, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Shakespeare Theatre, and the University of Maryland.

Beth Lattin, a GW senior and double major in English and math, said, “Learning about Shakespeare and medieval and early modern Europe can be daunting, but these programs give students a great hands-on approach, rather than just simply studying texts. Students who are interested in continuing their studies will find that the projects and exposure helps prepare them for future degrees and careers.”

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