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  • Monday, January 28, 2019 - 5:15pm to 7:00pm

Class of 1978 Pavilion, 6th floor, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library

Please join us for this semester’s first meeting of the Workshop in the History of Material Texts at 5:15pm on Monday, January 28 in the Class of 1978 Pavilion on the sixth floor of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library.

We will begin the semester with a joint presentation by our very own John Pollack and Peter Stallybrass on “The Cannibal in the Hammock.” John and Peter write:

In “The Cannibal in the Hammock,” Peter Stallybrass and John Pollack will propose a new outlook, for a new year, on one of the most vexing obsessions in early modern studies: the “cannibal.” We will examine verbal, visual, and cartographic texts from the first century of European colonization.

The word, with its many variants, gradually became synonymous with a people and a cultural practice: an indigenous group, perhaps called “caribs” or “cannibals,” living in a particular place, later named the “Caribbean,” who consumed the flesh of their enemies—a practice that would come to be called, after these people, “cannibalism.” Other indigenous words with fewer negative implications also circulated in European accounts, including hamaca (and variants like hamackoe, hammoc) – the bed of woven fibers used by Native peoples throughout the “Caribbean” region that fascinated some colonial observers. What can we learn by closely following these words as used in early modern sources and their multiple variants?

We will also advance the possibility that the obsession with cannibalism in the Americas is primarily a modern one—and one that draws more upon Renaissance visual representations than upon fifteenth- and sixteenth-century textual accounts of the “new world,” in which cannibalism is often a marginal and belated concern. Hammocks received both visual and textual attention and had a direct and radical impact on European sleeping practices, but they have been virtually ignored in the haste with which scholars have turned to the “othering” language of cannibalism. 

John Pollack is Curator, Research Services in the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. His academic work has centered on representations of Native American languages in New World accounts of the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries. He teaches a course for Rare Book School with Professor Roger Chartier and is currently teaching an undergraduate seminar on “The Mediterranean and the World, 1450-1700” with Roger Chartier and Antonio Feros.

Peter Stallybrass is Annenberg Professor in the Humanities (Emeritus) and Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, where he founded and has directed the History of Material Texts workshop for the last quarter-century. Stallybrass’s work focuses on early modern printing and manuscripts and he is at present turning his Rosenbach Lectures in Bibliography on “Printing for Manuscript” into a book to be published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.

All are welcome! Those who do not hold University of Pennsylvania ID cards should bring another form of photo identification in order to enter the library building.