EMBerS: Glowing prospects for network in Early Modern Biblical Studies

Two years ago, Richard Wistreich gave a lecture and masterclass as part of a Visiting Speaker series at the University of Sheffield. This was during my stint as Coordinator for the Sheffield Centre for Early Modern Studies (SCEMS). At dinner after the lecture, I discovered Richard’s son-in-law is a fellow biblical scholar (and friend).* Richard quizzed me over the absence of biblical studies in the Society for Renaissance Studies (of which he is Vice Chair). Where, he wanted to know, are all the early modern biblical studies scholars? And how do we get them to RenSoc?

Since that conversation, I have been more active in courting early modernists both within and outside the confines of biblical studies. The Society for Reformation Studies (a clash of acronyms!) took “The Bible in the Reformation” as its theme in 2016. It was my first time in attendance, but others also emerged from the woodwork and I had the pleasure of putting names to faces. Again, at the Sixteenth Century Society conference that summer, I connected with scholars whose work I had read.

And so, as the call-for-proposals deadline drew nigh for the 2018 Renaissance Studies conference, to be held in Sheffield, I felt compelled to make something happen—and it has.

Panels at SRS 2018

The Early Modern Biblical Studies network (EMBerS) will launch in Sheffield next July with a pair of interdisciplinary panels and a smattering of independent papers.

We’ll hear about Job and the unknowable from Kevin Killeen (co-editor of the Oxford Handbook of the Bible in Early Modern England), experience Ezekiel’s visions courtesy of Andrew Mein (recently appointed Assoc. Professor of Hebrew Bible at Durham), and read between the lines of early modern concordances with David Cram (Emeritus, Oxford).

A second panel will reach beyond British shores to examine the impolitic in biblical drama with Wim François (Church History, KU Leuven), explore transatlantic networks of religious tolerance with Ana T. Valdez (Évora), and consider physicality and resistance in European bible translation (me!).

Naomi Tadmor (Lancaster) has volunteered as respondent, and Catherine Evans (Sheffield) will be helping out with the chairing.

We’ll also be listening out for Paul Arblaster’s paper on strange beasts in renaissance bibles, and some other contributions that will become clear when the full programme is published.

And plans are afoot for a rare books viewing, including items from the Oliver Beckerlegge Bible Collection.


The intention is that EMBerS becomes a resource for those less expert in handling early modern bibles, and a space to foster interdisciplinary exchange and collaboration. We’re planning a half day get-together before SRS, to discuss how best to take the network forward, and we have feelers out for a medieval link (via Eyal Poleg and Charlotte Steenbrugge), so that the future may see our MEMBership grow.

If this is the first you’ve heard, and you’d like to be kept informed, drop me a line using the contact form below.

Update: 2.3.2018
1) Registration. It is now possible to sign up (free) for the EMBerS pre-event via EventBrite

2) ECR Funding. Thanks to a Lightening Seed grant from the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) we also have a small pot of funding to subsidise Early Career Researchers participating in this event (e.g. to cover overnight accommodation or increased travel costs). If you’re an ECR and would like to be considered for the subsidy, register as an Early Career Researcher and you’ll get extra information by email. Otherwise register for a general place. In either case, participation is free.

Please note that places are limited and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

Note: The image at the head of this post is based on a woodcut in John Foxe’s Book of Actes and Monuments (1583 edn), showing the last words of John Rogers, compiler of the so-called Matthew Bible. I took a photograph of the woodcut (from a copy in University of Sheffield Special Collections, F274.205), touched up and then coloured it in Gimp (open source image editing software). It was originally produced for a Sheffield shop window as part of the Sheffield King James Bible project. I claim copyright of the resulting image (with the University of Sheffield).

I am delighted to have the support of Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies for this initiative.

* Specifically.

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