Ortelius 1570


English Encounters with the Americas, 1550-1610

NEH Summer Seminar for College and University Teachers

July 5-29, 2011 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology



dear colleague letter

contents and approach


faculty and staff


stellar class site

related links



MIT Literature Section



PARTICIPANTS -- click here for a high resolution group photo

Colleen Boyd
Colleen E. Boyd is an associate professor of anthropology at Ball State University (Muncie, IN). She was born and raised in Seattle and earned her degree in cultural anthropology from the University of Washington in 2001. Her areas of research include environmental anthropology, applied anthropology, ethnohistory, indigenous studies, rural studies, human relationships to place. Her work has been published in Ethnohistory and she (with Coll Thrush, UBC) has an edited volume, Phantom Past, Indigenous Presence: Native Ghosts in North American Culture and History, due to be released by the University of Nebraska Press in June 2011.

Abigail Chandler
Abigail Chandler. My interest in history dates back to my childhood curiosity about the Phippsburg peninsula in Maine where I grew up. Home to the failed Popham colony of 1607 and a fledgling settlement planted by Plymouth Colony in the 1650s, this particular region eventually helped steer my academic interests towards the colonial period. Prior to beginning graduate school, I spent several years in the museum field and I completed an MA in public history from the University of Massachusetts in 2002. I then completed a PhD at the University of Maine in 2008 where my dissertation was a comparative study of sexual crime trials in colonial New England. I currently work as an assistant professor of early American history at the University of Massachusetts Lowell where I am developing new upper level classes. I have just finished teaching a class entitled the Colonial Society and the Captivity Narrative which looks at captivity narratives from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries but I would also like to take the class back to the early contact period of the sixteenth century and I look forward to learning more about this time period during the NEH seminar.

Natalie Deibel
Natalie Deibel is a doctoral candidate in early modern history at George Washington University. She is currently writing a dissertation entitled “‘For Profit, Pleasure, and Sport’: Recreation in the Early Modern Atlantic World,” which examines the intersections of recreation, society and culture in the North Atlantic during the colonial period. Trained as an historian of gender and sexuality, her other research interests include travel literature, material culture and legal history.  She has presented her work at conferences in Germany, Canada and the United Kingdom, and she spent this past semester in London on a P.E.O. Women in Academia Fellowship researching British archives. She is currently working on a dissertation chapter tracing the use and importance of recreational activities and pastimes in early English encounters in the New World, which she looks forward to discussing with her fellow seminarians this coming July.  On both a professional and personal level, she is very excited about learning from and working with scholars from many different disciplines in the beautiful and historic city of Cambridge.

Yannis Evrigenis
Ioannis (Yannis) Evrigenis is associate professor of political science, with a secondary appointment in classics, at Tufts University.  He is co-editor of Johann Gottfried Herder's Another Philosophy of History and Selected Political Writings (Hackett, 2004), and the author of Fear of Enemies and Collective Action (Cambridge University Press, 2008), for which he was awarded the 2009 Delba Winthrop Award for Excellence in Political Science. He has received grants and fellowships from Princeton's University Center for Human Values, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Philosophical Society, the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, the Earhart Foundation, and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. At present, he is working on a study of the concept of the state of nature in political thought, a condition that shaped political theories from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries, and which Hobbes likened to that of the Indians of America. Therefore, he is interested in understanding the ways in which America was depicted in England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Kurt Gingrich
Kurt Gingrich was born and raised in central Pennsylvania, in a small town approximately eighty-six miles from anywhere else. Wisely shunned by private institutions, he had the good fortune to attend the University of Virginia and the University of Wisconsin, and he has gladly been a part of the history faculty at Radford University since 2000. Teaching courses ranging from ancient Britain to modern India and researching primarily the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British Atlantic, Kurt has won both teaching and research awards, but only because he has had the privilege of working with enormously talented and supportive colleagues. Kurt’s current research focuses on interrelationships between environment and empire-building, fixating on such tragic episodes as the destruction of Port Royal and the loss of Cloudesley Shovell’s fleet. Kurt hopes that talented and supportive colleagues in the English Encounters with the Americas summer seminar will help him come up with something smart to say about the fateful final voyage of Thomas Cavendish.

Melanie Holm
Melanie Holm is an ABD graduate student in the comparative literature program of Rutgers University, where she is completing a dissertation on comedy and epistemology in the British long eighteenth century. Her areas of research interest include Enlightenment dialectics of feeling and reason, the relationship of understanding to sociability in early realist narrative, and the use of “fiction” as a space of psychological experimentation.  An article drawn from her dissertation will appear in Philological Quarterly this summer. During the seminar, she will examine the status of “reason” in new world encounters as index of humanness. Her project is interested in how early travel writers construe thinking on an individual, social, and species level, as well as the use of narrative as a tool for interrogating the importance of individual, empirical experience and for emphasizing the collusion of interiority and social life.

Jessica Hower
Jessica Hower is a sixth year doctoral candidate in history at Georgetown University. She received her BA from Union College in 2006 and is currently writing her dissertation, "Tudor Imperialism: Exploration, Experimentation, and Enterprise in the Sixteenth Century British Atlantic." Her project engages questions about the formation of empires and the relationship between imperial expansion and national consolidation. It explores these questions by focusing on some of the earliest imperial designs undertaken by the British, in settings within Europe, the Isles, and in the Americas. It traces overseas experimentation in its diverse forms as a way of investigating the intertwined process of imperial expansion and national consolidation. Her teaching interests include Tudor-Stuart Britain, the British Empire writ large, comparative colonialism, and the Atlantic world. This fall, she will teach an upper level undergraduate seminar, "The Tudor World," at Georgetown. She is very much looking forward the seminar and the opportunity it affords to approach sources from a variety of disciplines and receive input from others that will challenge and improve her scholarship. She is also very much looking forward to her first extended stay in Boston and to exploring all the city has to offer!

Zach Hutchins
Zach Hutchins is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and visiting assistant professor of English at Brigham Young University. He investigates the ways in which Renaissance conceptions of Eden impacted early American life and letters. Articles on this topic have been published in Early American Literature, Modern Language Studies and The New England Quarterly, and an essay on the symbolic role of rattlesnakes in colonial and early national cultures will appear in Early American Studies this fall. During his time in Cambridge this summer, Zach hopes to finish revising the introduction and first chapter of his book manuscript, Inventing Eden, before submitting it for review. As a native of Massachusetts and a product of pseudo-Puritan parents, Zach's handled a clamshell hoe more than once, and he can't wait for this summer's return trip to Plimouth Plantation.

Scott Lyons
Scott Lyons has taught Native American and global indigenous literatures at Syracuse University since 2002, and last year he directed the Native American studies program.  This fall he will begin a new appointment at the University of Michigan where he will teach Native American literature in the Department of English Language and Literature and the Program in American Culture.  A member of the Ojibwe nation, Scott was raised at Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. His wide-ranging interests in Native studies have led him to write on such varied subjects as Lewis Henry Morgan, heritage language revitalization, the Billy Jack movies, and nineteenth-century Native writers and orators. His book X-Marks: Native Signatures of Assent (University of Minnesota Press, 2010) analyzes Native modernity while offering a critique of the "new traditionalism" pervading much writing about Natives today. His main goal for the seminar is to study English representations of the Indians they encountered (and invented) on their voyages.

Marianne Montgomery
Marianne Montgomery is an assistant professor of English at East Carolina University. She received an A.B. from Wellesley College and an M.A. and a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. Her recently completed first book, Europe’s Languages on England’s Stages, 1590-1620 (forthcoming from Ashgate), locates stage representations of European vernaculars within contemporary discourses about the promise and perils of cross-cultural contact. At ECU, she primarily teaches courses on Shakespeare and Renaissance drama. She also contributes to the university’s interdisciplinary Medieval and Renaissance Studies program, for which she recently taught a seminar on early English trade and travel. In the seminar, she is especially interested in exploring how early modern English travelers to the Americas record (or choose not to record) language difference as they work to describe and make sense of the people they encounter. When not teaching and writing, she enjoys bike commuting, knitting, skiing, canoeing, eating, and playing with her cats.

Jacob Pollock
Jacob Pollock is a doctoral candidate at the University of Pittsburgh, working on a dissertation entitled “The Geographicall Compass: Authority, Utility and History in the English Voyage Account, 1660–1730.” His dissertation examines accounts of sea voyages in the context of the London book market, and investigates how editorial decisions were motivated by a cosmopolitan, imperial readership. Originally from New Zealand, he completed a BA and MA at the University of Auckland, with a thesis on narratives of settlement in modern New Zealand popular histories. His interests include early modern imperial history, the history of the book, exploration and travel, and historical consciousness. When not pursuing these interests, he brews beer and rides his bike, though not usually at the same time.

Cassie Smith
Cassander Smith is an assistant professor of English at the University of Alabama where she teaches courses in early African American and American literature. Her research focuses on representations of black Africans in early Atlantic literature, emphasizing the racial/cultural ideologies that helped shape English encounters with the early Americas and helped shape the literature produced about those encounters. Cassie completed her Ph.D. in early American literature at Purdue University in May 2010 and was a 2009-10 ACLS Mellon Fellow. She has work forthcoming in the journal Early American Literature and in two essay collections. Her current work in progress is a book manuscript titled 'No Rogue, No Rascal, No Thief': Black Africans and the Making of Early Atlantic Literature, which examines the narrative struggles that arose when 16th and 17th century European travel writers attempted to represent black Africans in the Americas in ways consistent with old world ideologies. 

Mac test
Edward “Mac” Test is an assistant professor of English at Boise State University (PhD University of California, Santa Barbara, 2008). He has published several essays on the influences of American culture on English literature, such as "The Tempest and The Newfoundland Cod Fishery," in Global Traffic, 1550 to 1700, (Palgrave, 2008); “Seeds of Sacrifice: Amaranth, the Gardens of Tenochtitlan and Spenser’s Faerie Queene” in A Companion to the Global Renaissance, 1550-1660 (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009); and “’A dish fit for the gods’: Mexica Sacrifice in De Bry, Las Casas, and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar” in JMEMS (Duke University, 2011). The NEH Summer Seminar on Early Encounters fits in directly with the trajectory of Mac's research, and he looks forward to conversing with scholars likewise interested in the European encounter with the New World. His book project, currently titled "Consuming the Americas," explores the material exploitation of the New World environment by European society. By giving voice to alternative societies across the Atlantic, this interdisciplinary study, which in part considers the ethnographic origins of botanical science in Europe, shows how the literature of England reflects the proto-capitalist consumption of New World resources as well as the literary consumption of New World myths.

Coll Thrush
A graduate of Fairhaven College at Western Washington University and the University of Washington, Coll Thrush formerly served as historian for the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe in his hometown of Auburn, Washington. He is now associate professor at the University of British Columbia, where he teaches indigenous, environmental, cultural, and world history. Coll wrote Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place, winner of the 2007 Washington State Book Award, and “City of the Changers: Indigenous People and the Transformation of Seattle’s Watersheds,” named Best Article of 2006 by the Urban History Association. With Colleen Boyd, he co-edited Phantom Past, Indigenous Presence: Native Ghosts in North American History & Culture, forthcoming in 2011, and has published on topics ranging from seismology to food. He is currently writing Aboriginal London: Indigenous Histories of an Empire’s Centre and is co-editing a volume entitled The Red Atlantic with Jace Weaver. These two latter projects inspired him to join this summer's NEH seminar. Outside the university, Coll serves on the Labyrinth Guild at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Vancouver’s West End, is a part-time student at the Vancouver School of Theology, and recently retired as a composer and performer with Katari Taiko, Canada’s oldest Japanese drumming ensemble.

Kelly Wisecup
Kelly Wisecup is an assistant professor of English at the University of North Texas where she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on early American literature and culture. Her research interests include the literatures of colonial America and the Atlantic world, the history of medicine, and interdisciplinary approaches to early American literature. Her work has been supported by research fellowships at the Newberry Library and the John Carter Brown Library. In addition, she has published articles on yellow fever, slave rebellion, and tropical contagion in William Wells Brown’s anti-slavery novel Clotel (in the Southern Literary Journal), and on African medical knowledge, smallpox, and satire (in Early American Literature)She recentlyco-authored a review of the Atlantic History Seminar at Harvard University, which appeared in Atlantic Studies in 2010She is currently completing a book entitled Communicating Disease: Medical Encounters in Early American Literatures, which examines the ways in which European colonists, Native Americans, and Africans exchanged medical knowledge in colonial encounters and the influence of these exchanges on colonial medical writing.  She looks forward to broadening her interdisciplinary research and her interest in early modern travel narratives during the seminar.

Randy Wood
Randy Wood is a professor of humanities at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee where he lives with his wife Audri and four children, Calvin, David, Emma, and Abby.  After several years of graduate school, Randy accepted a post at his hometown college, Lee University, in 1998. At Lee, he developed the humanities core curriculum and currently serves as chair of the Department of History and Political Science. Apart from teaching humanities and history courses and promoting the study of local history, Randy enjoys playing baseball and racquet sports and assisting his sons’ baseball teams. He and his family are active in the life of Trinity Presbyterian Church where Randy regularly teaches college-age classes. Randy’s academic interests focus on religion and culture in early modern Europe and Britain and colonial North America as well as the history of family life in the western world. He holds a M.T.S. degree from Harvard Divinity School and a Ph.D. in history from Penn State. Randy’s dissertation examined early modern English Protestantism as it was constructed and experienced in maritime context and he sees the English Encounters seminar as an exciting opportunity to examine key “maritime” texts in an interdisciplinary setting.