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Dr Natalya Din-Kariuki

With the support of the Newberry Library and the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance and the Humanities Research Centre at the University of Warwick, I spent two weeks at the Newberry as a short-term fellow in the summer of 2022. I carried out research relating to two interrelated projects: my book project, provisionally titled Peregrine Words: The Rhetoric of Seventeenth-Century English Travel Writing, and a new project, in its tentative and early stages, on early modern cosmopolitanisms. My research for both projects focussed primarily on the Newberry’s extensive collection of materials related to early modern travel and geographical description.


Part of my time at the Newberry focussed on research for my book project, which examines the imbrication of rhetorical and geographical conceptions of “place” in seventeenth-century English travel writing. Its contention is that the spatial and topographical language used in rhetoric, and its similarities to the language of travel writing, is not merely coincidental or accidental, but meaningful. It shows that travellers’ engagements with rhetoric enabled them to intervene in ongoing debates about place – debates which were culturally and politically fraught – as well as the new geographical modes and practices to which these debates gave rise. One example of these new modes is chorography, a branch of geography which emerged in the late sixteenth century and flourished in the seventeenth, and whose texts often appeared under the title of “survey” or “description”. Rather than seeking to describe a nation as a whole, chorography divided the nation into its constituent parts, dealing with the description of particular regions, or specific cities or towns. At the Newberry, I consulted a range of chorographical works, including William Lambarde’s A Perambulation of Kent (1570), William Camden’s Britain, or, A Chorographicall Description (1610) (the translated and expanded version of his earlier Latin Britannia), and James Howell’s Londonopolis (1657). I considered the ways in which these works positioned themselves in relation to the classical past, and identified several formal, stylistic, and conceptual connections between them and the travel writing I examine. As part of my book’s argument is that travel writers like Thomas Coryate drew on the kinds of strategies typically used by chorographers to describe (and to “know” and “own”) England in the unexpected context of foreign travel, this research was very helpful. I also viewed several rhetorical treatises in manuscript. The most significant of these was a late-seventeenth-century manuscript by the French rhetorician Pierre de Lenglet, which consisted of two Latin treatises bound together: one on rhetoric, the other on geography. This was exciting to see, as the connections between these two fields of learning are central to my project.


I spent the rest of my time at the Newberry undertaking research for my new project on early modern cosmopolitanisms, which examines the emergent figure of the “cosmopolite” or “citizen of the world” in the literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. To situate this emergence within developing understandings of “the world” in the early modern period more generally, I consulted works of early modern cosmography, including Robert Record’s The Castle of Knowledge (1556), William Cunningham’s The Cosmographical Glasse (1559), and Thomas Blundeville’s Exercises (1597), paying particular attention to their representations of racial, cultural, and national difference. I also examined a series of texts on the subjects of trade, citizenship, and naturalisation, such as Francis Bacon’s speech on naturalisation (1641), Josiah Child’s New Discourse of Trade (1694), and Sundry considerations touching naturalization of aliens (1695). In doing so, I thought about the ways in which early modern debates about citizenship are bound up with economic concerns, and about the strategies the authors of these works use to make their arguments, including dense classical allusion and invocations of historical memory. I will share some of this research at the Newberry’s Premodern Seminar in October.


I am now in the early stages of planning a longer-term collaboration between Warwick and the Newberry, which will bring together researchers from Warwick and other institutions in the Newberry Consortium to study and discuss the Newberry’s collections related to early modern travel. I look forward to sharing updates about this collaboration in due course. For now, I would like to thank everyone at the Newberry for making my time so enjoyable and productive, especially the library staff, Christopher Fletcher, Rebecca Fall, Lia Markey, Suzanne Karr Schmidt, Mary Hale, Keelin Burke, and James Akerman, as well as Megan Heffernan of DePaul University.