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Solmsen Fellows

Portrait image of Sarah Crover wearing a grey shirt in front of book shelves
Sarah Crover
English, University of British Columbia
Solmsen Fellow (2018-2019)
Watermen, Petermen, and Mermaids: Creatures of Conversion on the Early Modern Thames

Watermen, Petermen, and Mermaids: Creatures of Conversion on the Early Modern Thames is a book-length project that employs the discourses of conversion as a lens to examine three overlooked figures – “mermaids” (prostitutes), “petermen” (illegal fishermen) and watermen (ferrymen of the river) that haunted the outskirts of early modern London. Drawing upon the works of Taylor and Greene, the city plays of Beaumont, Dekker, Jonson, and Middleton, and London civic documents, I argue that these roguish creatures’ consistent association with unlawful activity reveals something about their ability to dissolve physical and moral boundaries. They enact their transgressions in a state of incomplete conversion – half-human, half-water – reconfiguring our understanding of London’s legal, political, and social limits. My project explores how these creatures’ riverine traversals unmade boundaries and exposed Londoners’ fears that they themselves were riverine creatures.

Sarah Crover received her PhD in English at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 2016. Her dissertation was entitled “Theatrical Water Shows and the Cultural History of the Early Modern Thames.” Her research focuses upon London civic pageantry, the Thames, conversions of the body, and ecocriticism. Her work has appeared in Performing Environments and Early Modern Culture and is forthcoming in Studies in the Age of Chaucer,  Premodern Ecologies (University of Toronto Press), and Civic Performance (Taylor and Francis). Her research has been supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Canada), the Society for Theatre Research (UK), and the Early Modern Conversions project (McGill University). Before coming to Madison, she taught English literature and composition at UBC.

Portrait image of Paul-Alexis Mellet wearing a black shirt with arms crossed in front of a book shelf
Paul-Alexis Mellet
History, University of Geneva; Institute for the History of Reformation (IHR)
Solmsen Fellow (2018-2019)
Circumventing the Violence – Remonstrances as a Means of Negotiation and Resistance during the European Civil Wars between 1550 and 1650 (France, the Low Countries, England)

Remonstrances were texts printed in Europe during the civil wars (1550-1650). They are unique in that they served simultaneously as a means of governance, instruments of negotiation and avenues of resistance. They enable continuous dialog during the conflicts. Whereas previous scholarship has focused on conflict and the violence itself, I examine the remonstrance as a means of circumventing the violence and sustaining institutional interaction. I show that – the battles, conflicts and massacres notwithstanding – negotiation remained the focus of power relations between the authorities and a “political society” that used remonstrances to seek to impose (its vision of) peace and justice.

Paul-Alexis Mellet was born in Paris in 1970. After concluding his studies in Philosophy (Paris IV/Paris-Sorbonne), he aroused his interests in History by obtaining an 'agrégation' certificate (Paris I / Panthéon-Sorbonne) and by writing a thesis (Université de Tours/CESR) on Protestant Monarchomachs — jurists, diplomats, and theologians who theorized armed resistance against tyrants (issued by Droz in 2007). He was Professor of Modern History in the Centre for Advanced Studies in the Renaissance (CESR) and in the University of Tours. He is now Professor at the University of Geneva and at the Institute for the History of Reformation. Professor Mellet has published a number of ancient texts, notably Le réveille-matin des Français et de leurs voisins (1574), issued by Garnier in 2015, Conseil à la France désolée (1562), issued by Droz in 2017, and Histoire de France de La Popelinière (1581), issued by Droz in 2019. His present interests are central to the concern of religious warfare in Renaissance Europe and he devoted his recent HDR thesis (Paris IV/Paris-Sorbonne) to a research on the remonstrances that were printed during such epoch. His position consists in showing that during the conflicts of this time, all the parties involved (Catholics, Protestants, Royalists) undertook permanent efforts to restore peace and establish justice.

Portrait image of Giorgio Pini in front of a blue and white ceramic art piece
Giorgio Pini
Philosophy, Fordham University
Solmsen Fellow (2018-2019)
Investigations into Duns Scotus's Metaphysics

To what extent did the belief in an omnipotent deity (the kind of deity that can upset the standard way things are by performing miracles) influence the development of some of the basic concepts by which Western intellectuals have been thinking about the deep structure of the reality? In my research, I will consider this question by focusing on the the later medieval thinker, John Duns Scotus (d. 1308). Duns Scotus left a lasting mark in both philosophy and theology. His contributions to metaphysics have been long recognized as both original and influential on foundational early modern figures such as Descartes and Leibniz. My research project is to write the first book-length new treatment of his metaphysics in English in about 70 years. My monograph will be structured as a series of investigations on key topics and will make use of hitherto unexplored sources. The focal point of my project will be the relationship between God’s omnipotence and metaphysics. By focusing on this topic, I also hope to shed some light on the extent to which people and cultures with different religious commitment or no religious commitment might agree on a “neutral” interpretation of the structure of reality independent of those very commitments.

Giorgio Pini (PhD 1997, Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy) is professor of philosophy at Fordham University in New York City, where he has been teaching since 2005. He held fellowships in Toronto (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies), Leuven (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium), and Oxford (All Souls College). He has published extensively on later medieval metaphysics and theory of cognition with a particular focus on the thought of the Franciscan theologian and philosopher, Joh Duns Scotus. His most recent book is the critical edition of an hitherto unknown treatise on metaphysics by Duns Scotus, which was published by Brepols in 2017 in the series Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis.

Portrait image of Sonia Velázquez wearing a black shirt in front of white book shelf
Sonia Velázquez
Religious Studies; Comparative Literature, Indiana University-Bloomington
Solmsen Fellow (2018-2019)
Promiscuous Grace: Reimagining Beauty and Holiness with Saint Mary of Egypt

In Promiscuous Grace: Reimagining Religion and Beauty with St. Mary of Egypt I study the immensely popular story of Mary of Egypt’s conversion from promiscuous twelve-year old to venerable anchorite as mediated by her interaction with an image of the Virgin Mary. This figure, though rarely studied from a theoretical perspective, emerges in this project as a productive transhistorical vehicle for reflecting on the role of beauty and appearances in works that are ostensibly about asceticism and Christian doctrine. Through the study of three instantiations of the legend from the thirteenth to the seventeenth centuries, I show how these works—on the page, on the stage, and on canvas—engage openly with questions of generosity and promiscuity, belief and appearances, mediation and immediacy, feminine charm and the grotesque. Examining how the legend of this saint mediates the presence of the divine in this world, I ultimately seek to recuperate for grace its double meaning as the gratuitous gift of salvation (holiness) and the allure of the senses (beauty) as well as to challenge our contemporary understandings of hagiography as synonymous with uncritical acclamation, of belief as the static acceptance of dogma, and of beauty as that which “one does not have to work at” (Arthur Danto).

Sonia Velázquez has a joint appointment as Assistant Professor in the departments of Religious Studies and Comparative Literature at Indiana University, Bloomington. Her research focuses on the intersection of aesthetics and religion, especially in the medieval and early modern periods in Europe. She has co-edited a volume on pastoral and the humanities with Mathilde Skoie (Exeter/Bristol Press, 2007) and a Critical Cluster on Giorgio Agamben and early modern Spanish poetry for MLN in 2017. Her publications include articles on Pascal’s wager and theatrical stagings of conversion; on style as a vehicle of political and ethical engagement with questions of politics and anthropology in Cervantes’ Los trabajos de Persiles y Sigismunda; on poetry and hospitality in Théophile Viau’s La maison de Sylvie, and on the fallacy of secularization in Alexandre Hardy’s stage adaptation of Cervantes’ short story La fuerza de la sangre. Her article, “Didacticism and the Ends of Storytelling: Walter Benjamin’s Medievalism and Forms of Knowledge in Sendebar” received the Allen and Judy Shoaf Award for the Best Essay Published in Exemplaria (2013).