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“Writing Across Cultures in the Early Modern World” Symposium
October 6, 2017 @ 11:00 am - 3:00 pm | Stevenson Fireside Lounge
In the past decade, historians and literary scholars have become increasingly interested in the global circulation of the written word. Much of this scholarship has focused on the movement of printed books. Other projects, such as Stanford’s Mapping the Republic of Letters initiative, have traced epistolary networks that spanned continents and oceans. But what about the cross-cultural movement of textual artifacts that weren’t books or letters? This symposium will explore the limits of book history. At what point does an object shade into being a textual artifact? How can we make space for a less Eurocentric book history by following the itineraries of objects, like textiles, tattoos, or mummies, which encoded information in ways that differed from the format of book or the letter?
Mairin Odle – University of Alabama – Marin Odle is Assistant Professor of American Studies and teaches courses in Native American Studies and early American culture. Her research interests include Native-newcomer relations, the history of the body, and how selfhood, experience, and identity were narrated in early America. Her current book project investigates how cross-cultural body modification in early America remade both physical appearances as well as ideas about identity. Focusing on indigenous practices of tattooing and scalping, the book traces how these practices were rapidly adopted and transformed by colonial powers, making them key sites of cultural contestation.
Professor Odle’s talk “Reading Their ‘Marckes’: English Perceptions of Tattooing as Indigenous Literacy” explores early English interpretations of Native American tattooing, focusing on writing and art produced in response to late sixteenth-century voyages. Artists and scholars on such expeditions paid close attention to bodily appearance and inscription. Lines marked on Native bodies were then transferred—and translated—as lines within European books. Colonial observers conceived of indigenous tattooing as an important communication system, and one that they hoped to employ for their own goals—even as they simultaneously claimed that Natives were people with “no letters”.
Hosted by the Center for World History
Co-sponsored by the “Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in Critical Bibliography at Rare Books School”