Kathleen Davis, “From Periodization to the Autoimmune Secular State”

On Thursday, April 20, Kathleen Davis (Professor, English, University of Rhode Island) will present “From Periodization to the Autoimmune Secular State.” The lecture will take place in 142 Goldwin Smith Hall at 4:30 p.m.

ABSTRACT:
Can we imagine history without the idea of the Middle Ages? Difficult as that may be, this talk suggests, we cannot adequately understand today’s divisive politics, particularly concerning the “secular” and the “religious,” without examining the fundamental premises that generated and sustain the Middle Ages as a historical period.

Kathleen Davis received her PhD in English and Medieval Studies from Rutgers University, where she found encouragement to work across disciplinary boundaries. She has worked in the fields of Old and Middle English literature, translation studies, and postcolonial criticism. Most recently, her engagement with colonial histories and postcolonial theory led her to examine the periodizing process that gave us the categories of the “medieval” and the “modern,” and to investigate the relation of that process to colonial rule. She is the author of Periodization and Sovereignty: How Ideas of Feudalism and Secularization Govern the Politics of Time; and co-editor, with Nadia Altschul, of Medievalisms in the Postcolonial World: The Idea of “the Middle Ages” Outside Europe. Professor Davis is continuing her work in this area with two book projects. The first, tentatively titled “The Fold of Periodization,” examines the structure of periodization; reassesses the historiography of the idea of the Middle Ages; and traces the role of medieval/modern periodization in the formation of academic disciplines. The second, which Davis began while a member of the Institute for Advanced Study, focuses on the relationship between medieval/modern periodization and the idea of a “secular” versus a “religious” society, particularly as this idea affects contemporary politics.

This event is co-sponsored by the Departments of English and History, the Jewish Studies Program, and the Society for the Humanities.