West Virginia University Woodburn Associate Professor of English Literature Jonathan Burton recently co-authored an essential anthology for early modern scholarship.
Race in Early Modern Englandcompiles primary materials from 16th and 17th century England highlighting the range and complexity of racial vocabularies and practices.
The books longer, more complex history of race is crucial to the projects of activists, scholars and students working to denaturalize and overcome racism around the world,Burton said.
The collected documents range from travelersnarratives and medical texts to biblical exegesis, recipe books and scientific tracts.
In addition, the introduction discusses writings on religion, skin color, sexual and marital practices, geography and the human body to explain pre-Enlightenment lineages of racial categories.
The Age of Enlightenment, often associated with the rise of scientific thinking, evolved in Western Europe in the 18th century and used reason to challenge medieval notions of theology, politics and philosophy.
The book challenges the idea that, prior to the Age of Enlightenment, notions of cultural difference were less scientific and, therefore, not as harmful as later notions.
The discourse of scientific racism is not only cultural itself but also continuous with many early modern notions that were expressed in different vocabularies,Burton said.
Burton earned his doctorate from The City University of New York in 2000. He recently publishedTraffic and Turning: Islam and English Drama, 1579-1624.Burton teaches Shakespeare and Renaissance studies courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at WVU .
His co-author, Ania Loomba, is the Catherine Bryson Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania.