Workshop 2: Theories and Methods

Location: Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge.  Dates: 14-15 April 2014

The aim of this two-day workshop was to develop and assess methods of analysis and  theoretical approaches for future research on intersections of literature and diplomacy.

For the programme see here. For a report on our findings download our Textual Ambassadors Workshop Two Summary.

The workshop focused on how best to approach research in the three related areas under investigation by this network: the impact of changes in the literary sphere on diplomatic culture; the role of texts in diplomacy and diplomatic practice, particularly those that operated as ‘textual ambassadors’; and the impact of changes in diplomatic practice on literary production. Building on research priorities identified at workshop one and online, it  used discussion around early modern examples to ask:

  • What aspects of this field require new analytical methods or fuller understanding?
  • What are the benefits and shortcomings of existing analytical and theoretical models and how might these be developed in profitable directions?
  • How can we effectively utilise applicable methodological or theoretical paradigms from other research fields?
  • What can our new methodological and theoretical models add to our understanding of the relationship between literature and diplomacy?
  • How should we further refine the innovative, interdisciplinary theoretical and methodological approaches that we are trialling?
  • What does each discipline bring to the field that is unique, and how can these contributions be combined to offer new insights not possible from just one of these disciplinary perspectives?
  • What more do we need? How might we begin to construct entirely new models for thinking about literature and diplomacy?

The format of the workshop was designed to support innovative thought and the informal and experimental exchange of ideas surrounding the questions set out above. The heart of the workshop comprised a combination of short (10-minute) stimulus papers given by participants and roundtable discussions of short extracts from early modern texts presented by participants. The papers were thought-pieces trialling approaches to early modern literature and diplomacy rather than expositions of completed research and were also followed by discussion. Extracts and notes for the thought-pieces were shared before the workshop using the online forum.

This workshop ultimately sought to bring greater definition to this growing field of enquiry and formed the basis for the the papers presented at the network’s final conference and the essay collection emerging from the network.

This workshop was funded by the AHRC.


Workshop: Mapping the Field

Location:University of Oxford;   Dates:9-10 August 2013

Programme available here.

The aim of this two-day workshop was to identify productive avenues for future research on the interrelationship between literature and diplomacy in the early modern world.

This workshop brought together experts in history, literary studies, and cultural studies to address the intersections of literature and diplomacy. Recent research within both historical and literary disciplines has highlighted an urgent need for deeper investigation into the interlocking literary and diplomatic cultures of the global Renaissance. Historians and international relations scholars have called for new approaches to diplomatic studies, but such historical reassessments have left the role of literature relatively underexplored. Meanwhile Timothy Hampton’s Fictions of Embassy (2009) has compellingly demonstrated a powerful relationship between developments in Renaissance diplomacy and the composition, structures, concerns, tropes and even genres of European literatures.

At this workshop network members will introduce their research via short papers and reflect on productive future directions for further study in this important emerging field. Papers and discussions at the workshop asked:

  • What archival and other resources have untapped potential?
  • What kinds of textual exchanges are understudied?
  • What current assumptions require further critical reflection?
  • What are the key gaps in our thinking about this field?
  • What can each discipline contribute to our understanding of the relationship between literary and diplomatic cultures?
  • How might developments in literary studies help us reassess early modern diplomacy?
  • How might recent insights into early modern diplomatic practice inform analyses of early modern literary texts?
  • Which aspects of the field most urgently require new analytical methods and more developed theoretical approaches?

The ultimate aim of this workshop was to identify strategic questions and research priorities for future work in this important emerging area. We also aimed to identify innovative approaches that can be further discussed and developed at workshop two.

The Textual Ambassadors Workshop One Summary draws out themes that emerged in the course of our discussions and gives a taste of the individual papers. Tracey’s introductory survey of the state of the field outlines the various trends in historical and literary studies that make the network timely. You can also see Joad Raymond’s presentation on news and diplomacy here.

This workshop was sponsored by the AHRC and the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities.