February 09, 2012

Historian Dror Wahrman

By Kathryn Kopchik

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Dror Wahrman, professor of history and director of the Center for 18th-century Studies at Indiana University, will give the talk, "The Media Revolution in Early Modern England: An Artist's Perspective," on Tuesday, Feb. 14, at 7 p.m. in the Gallery Theatre of the Elaine Langone Center at Bucknell University.

The talk, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Harry Wolcott Robbins Lectureship.

In his talk, Wahrman will discuss his research into the paintings of 17th-century Dutch-British still-life artist Edward Collier. "Collier's works are an ingenious commentary on the media revolution of this period and on the birth of modern politics," said Wahrman.

After moving to London in 1693, Collier found a new media environment that prompted him to start a new genre of compositions — trompe l'oeil letter racks filled with printed documents, handwritten letters and other objects. In these paintings, Collier employs a secret language containing messages, games, allusions, and private jokes.

"Collier has been neglected, even forgotten, precisely because his secret messages have never been noticed, let alone understood," said Wahrman. "Once deciphered, his message-in-a-painted-bottle turns out to be nothing less than a sophisticated and incisive critique of modernity."

In Wahrman's most recent, award-winning book, The Making of the Modern Self: Identity and Culture in Eighteenth-century England, he explores the radical change that occurred in notions of self and personal identity categories including race, gender and class. This unrecognized cultural revolution, the author argues, set the scene for the array of new departures that signaled the onset of Western modernity.

The Harry Wolcott Robbins Lectureship was established in 1957 in honor of Harry Wolcott Robbins, John P. Crozer Professor of English and chairman of the department of English from 1923-54. The lecture is given annually by a person who has made significant contributions to English and American literary scholarship.

Contact: Division of Communications

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