History of Material Texts: Ideologies of the Codex in Richard Hakluyt and John Smith

Joseph Rezek, Boston University


September 19, 2022 - 5:15 pm to 7:00 pm @ Class of 1978 Orrery Pavilion, 6th floor, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library and via Zoom
Title page, John Smith, Generall HIstorie of Virginia (London 1624)

Note: This event will be in person and also live-streamed. To receive a Zoom link for this seminar, please email Aylin Malcolm. For information about the Workshop in the History of Material Texts, please visit the website.

Our speaker writes: "The earliest Anglophone literature of colonization (1585-1624) can help us understand the relationship between ideologies of human variety and ideologies associated with print authorship. What were the meaningful categories of authorship in this canon of literature, and how did they develop? In this talk, I argue that print authorship became ideologically European as English authors contrasted their own identities with non-European, non-Christian people they cast only as objects in print’s field of representation. Through focusing on two monumental codices of this period — both folios: Richard Hakluyt’s The Principal Navigations (1598-1600) and John Smith’s The Generall Historie of Virginia (1624) — I hope to suggest on a granular level how complicated and varied the Europeanization of print was in the Anglophone context. The materiality of books, including paratexts, format, and textual history, provide evidence for my argument. My purpose here is to ask what Hakluyt and Smith can teach us about how ideologies of print authorship collided with descriptions of human difference that laid the foundation for modern racial hierarchies. The bulk of my close reading will focus on meticulous revisions John Smith made to his early pamphlets for The Generall Historie of Virginia, especially passages about Pocahontas. These revisions, I argue, foreground the importance of gender in defining print’s relation to colonization."

Event Series

Drawing of a physician picking herbs from Paris, BnF lat. 6862, f. 18v (detail)

Workshop in the History of Material Texts

The Workshop in the History of Material Texts is a weekly seminar that features scholars presenting a wide variety of research in book history, bibliography, manuscript studies, history of reading, publication and printing, and related topics.

Image: John Smith, The Generall History of Virginia, New-England, and the Summer Isles... (London 1624).