College of Arts and Sciences

Renaissance Studies


Ayesha Ramachandran
Making Universals: Maps, Histories, Renaissances
(poster PDF)
Thursday, February 1, 2018, 4:15pm - 6:30pm
Walnut Room, Indiana Memorial Union

The lecture will be followed by an IU faculty roundtable on “The Global Renaissance” featuring Paul Losensky (Comparative Literature and Central Eurasian Studies), Kaya Sahin (History) and Sarah Van der Laan (Comparative Literature).

ABSTRACT: The terms “Renaissance” and “Global Renaissance” are traditionally invoked as historical period-markers, as guides to a distinct vision of temporality characterized by rupture and revolution. But how might the emergence of these categories at key moments in the late nineteenth and late twentieth centuries shed light on the universal ambitions and distinct spatio-temporal imagination of sixteenth-century writers, thinkers and mapmakers? Conversely, what might the sixteenth-century struggle to think in terms of large-scale frameworks—such as empire, world, cosmos—tell us about our contemporary fascination with macrocosmic frameworks (big data, systems science, global theory)? This talk begins with two sixteenth-century objects: Diogo Homem’s manuscript Atlas universal (ca. 1565) and the anonymous “World Map in a Fool’s Cap” (ca. 1590) and unfolds a conceptual reflection on the making of renaissances and the desire for universal knowledge.

Ayesha Ramachandran (Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at Yale University) is a cultural and literary critic whose work engages European traditions from Neo-Latin poetry to early modern philosophy and literature as well as Eurasian connections. Her first book, The Worldmakers (Chicago, 2015), explores the emergence of the world as a conceptual whole and a tool for thinking in the work of early modern cartographers, artists, philosophers, and authors; it has received the MLA’s Scaglione Prize in Comparative Literary Studies, the Milton Society of America’s Shawcross Prize, and the Sixteenth Century Studies Association’s Founders Prize. Her second book project, Lyric Thinking: Humanism, Selfhood, Modernity, as she describes it in her faculty profile, “draws together scholarship on theories of mind, cognition and meditation with a complex literary history of lyric’s foundational encounters with other genres” to explore “the central importance of lyric form and language in shaping new intellectual possibilities for the self in the early modern period and beyond.” Ramachandran is also at the forefront of the extension of Renaissance Studies to include encounters with the world beyond Europe’s boundaries. She has published on Mughal miniatures from the court of Jahangir and the challenge of cross-cultural comparative studies, and, supported by a Mellon New Directions fellowship, is currently learning Persian in preparation for comparative work on European and Central and South Asian lyric and epic poetry.

Ayesha Ramachandran’s visit to Bloomington is made possible through the support of the College Arts and Humanities Institute, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Departments of Comparative Literature, French and Italian, and History. The event will be followed by a reception.