Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

In defense of "Presentism"

Frances E. Dolan.

This paper will revisit the supposed problem of "presentism"--that is, projecting the concerns and preoccupations of the present onto the past--in order to defend some version of presentism as a needed part of securing a future for the humanities. A perceived sense of connection between the present and the past, a conviction that the past matters and that it shapes whatever futures we can build, helps to motivate rigorous inquiry into the past. Without collapsing the difference between past and present, we can still return to the past fully aware of the ways in which present concerns shape the questions we ask. My particular focus will be marriage. I examine how figures for marriage in the seventeenth-century still structure and animate the stories we tell about marriage in Anglo-American culture today.


Frances E. Dolan  (United States)
Department of English
University of California, Davis

Frances E. Dolan is Professor of English at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of Whores of Babylon: Gender, Catholicism, and Seventeenth-Century Print Culture (Cornell, 1999), and Dangerous Familiars: Representations of Domestic Crime in England, 1550-1700 (Cornell, 1994), and the editor of The Taming of the Shrew: Texts and Contexts (Bedford, 1996), and of five plays for the new Pelican Shakespeare. She is the Vice President of the Shakespeare Association of America. She is currently working on a study of representations of marital conflict in seventeenth- and twentieth-century England and America.

  • Marriage
  • Violence
  • History

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)