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Research Spotlight: Hannibal Hamlin

March 25, 2019

Research Spotlight: Hannibal Hamlin

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Each month, the Communications Team reaches out to members of the Department of English faculty and asks them to elaborate on a current research or creative project they are working on or have recently completed. For this month, we asked Professor Hannibal Hamlin about his project, the Bloomsbury Cultural History of the Bible.


Hannibal Hamlin

In your own words, as the expert that you are, can you explain the overview of your project?

The biggest project I’m currently involved with is the Bloomsbury Cultural History of the Bible, a six-volume book series for which I’m both the general editor and the editor of the Renaissance volume. Bloomsbury Press has published a number of these cultural histories, including sets on Women, Food, Animals, Clothing, Emotions and Peace. Each set has volumes on Antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Age of Empire, Modernity. Within each volume, the focus and order of chapters is identical. This means that readers can tackle the set in different ways, depending on their interests. You could read through all the chapters for a particular period, for instance, but you could also take a topic you’re interested in and read the chapter on it in each volume, giving you a long historical perspective. For the Bible series, the chapters will focus on Texts and Translations; Interpretation and Theology; History and Politics; Literature; Art; Faiths, Confessions, Denominations; the Natural World; Women, Gender, and Sexuality; and Popular Culture and Daily Life. The six volume editors, scholars from around the English-speaking world (US, UK, Canada, Australia) will have to put together a group of scholars in their period to cover these various topics. The whole set should involve over 50 scholars in a wide variety of fields and periods, from ancient linguists and archaeologists to modern sexuality and environmental studies, all addressing the deep and pervasive cultural influence of the Bible (and that term including the sacred texts of both Jews and Christians).

Now, could you shorten this description into one sentence that uses accessible language?

No text, or collection of texts, has had a more profound influence on global cultures, especially in the West, than the Bible, and the Bloomsbury Cultural History of the Bible will offer both scholarly and general readers the best survey of this history over several thousand years, in many countries, covering a range of focused topics from translation and interpretation to literature and art to sexuality, the environment and popular culture.

In what ways is your research significant?

My own research is on the literature of the English Renaissance or Reformation period, and I’ve published on the Bible and Shakespeare, the biblical Psalms, biblical allusion and adaptation and the translation and reading of the English Bible. I’ve been at the forefront of what was called (in an influential 2004 article) the “Turn to Religion in Early Modern English Studies,” and I continue to explore the many ways in which the English Bible was at the center of almost every aspect of early modern English culture.

Are you working with any colleagues or collaborators?

The Cultural History will ultimately bring together over 50 scholars from around the world, in a wide variety of academic fields, focusing on periods from antiquity to modernity. I will be working with the editorial team, the six volume editors (including me), and as editor of the Renaissance volume, I’ll be working with the 8 or 9 contributors to that volume.

Is the project being funded or supported by any individuals or organizations that you would like us to acknowledge?

This is a Bloomsbury Press production, and the funding comes from them. Bloomsbury was founded fairly recently in 1986, but since they had the amazing good fortune to publish the Harry Potter books, they have become one of the largest publishers in the United Kingdom, expanded their operations worldwide, and acquired many other smaller publishing companies, including Continuum, the Arden Shakespeare, Methuen Drama and the Bristol Classical Press.

Where do you see this project going in the future?

This particular project, though it will take several years, will end when the series is published. Nevertheless, I hope that it will foster future collaboration among its many contributors, and I look forward to being part of that.

What's next for you? What would you like to work on once this project is completed?

I have a number of other projects underway, including The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Religion, which I edited and which will be published in the spring, and The Psalms in English, 1530-1633, an anthology of Psalm translations in poetry and prose to be published by the UK Modern Humanities Research Association. Once that is in press, I plan to write a book on the subject of allusion, the ways in which literary works reference and engage with earlier literature, including the Bible.

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