College of Arts and Sciences

Renaissance Studies


Bernadette Andrea
Other Renaissances, Multiple Easts, and Transversal Contact Zones: Teresa Sampsonia Sherley’s Journey from Persia to Poland, 1608–11
(poster PDF)
Thursday, October 3, 2019, 4pm
University Club (President’s Room), Indiana Memorial Union

Drawing on post- and decolonial counter-mappings of the “imaginative geographies” of Orientalism and Occidentalism, this presentation assesses how a seventeenth-century Persianate woman’s travels from Isfahan to Kraków, then the capitals of the Safavid Empire (1598-1736) and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569–1793), cut across the “East” and “West” divide that defined what Walter Mignolo calls “the imaginary of the [early] modern/colonial world system.” This woman, Teresa Sampsonia Sherley, was a Circassian subject of the Safavid shah who travelled with her husband, Robert, from Iran through Europe on two occasions (1608-1615 and 1615-1628). As I have argued elsewhere, Teresa Sampsonia epitomizes the “chameleon,” “cosmopolitan,” and “renegade” that Sanjay Subrahmanyam theorizes in Three Ways to Be Alien: Travails and Encounters in the Early Modern World, even though he neglects to mention her in his discussion of Robert and his elder brother, Anthony, who was also the shah’s erstwhile ambassador. Furthermore, while her extended stays in England and Spain, as well as her time in Italy, have received recent critical attention, her travels through Eastern Europe—and particularly the three years she spent in Poland—have been completely neglected in the scholarship on the Sherleys. In response to these critical lacunae, I treat her travels through multiple “easts” as a salient instance of gendered transculturation enabled by intersecting renaissances across Eurasia. The first part of this presentation locates her travels within postcolonial and decolonial remappings of epistemic and geographical contact zones, including what Madina Tlostanova calls “Eurasian borderlands.” The second part examines her provenance in Western Asia (Circassia and Persia) as an “eastern” woman in relation to early modern/colonial eurocentric mappings. The final part traces her journey from Persia to Poland, situated as the East of the West and the West of the East, as an avenue to deconstruct the tendentious and untenable dichotomy of “East” and “West.”

Bernadette Andrea is a full professor in the Department of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is also a Core Faculty in the Center for Middle East Studies, an Affiliate Faculty in the Comparative Literature Program, and an Affiliate Faculty in the Department of Feminist Studies. She previously taught at the University of Texas, San Antonio, where she was the Celia Jacobs Endowed Professor in British Literature. She is the author of The Lives of Girls and Women from the Islamic World in Early Modern British Literature and Culture (University of Toronto Press, 2017) and Women and Islam in Early Modern English Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2007). Her critical edition of Delarivier Manley’s and Mary Pix’s plays, English Women Staging Islam, 1696–1707 (University of Toronto, Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2012), was published in the series “The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe.” Her co-edited collections include Travel and Travail: Early Modern Women, English Drama, and the Wider World, with Patricia Akhimie (University of Nebraska Press, 2019), and Early Modern England and Islamic Worlds, with Linda McJannet (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011). She currently serves as a co-editor, with Julie Campbell and Allyson Poska, of Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal, and is the director of The Early Modern Center at UCSB.

This event is presented with support from the College Arts + Humanities Institute, the College of Arts + Sciences, the Islamic Studies Program, the Polish Studies Center, the Department of Comparative Literature, the Department of English, the Department of History, and the Center for the Study of the Middle East.