Journal of the Northern Renaissance

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Northern Light: Polaris, an Introduction

The Editors

Following Northern Paths 

Royal 20 E IX   f. 4   Diagram

Where to go next? A diagram for determining the Earth’s true north from the north star Polaris in the Rotz Atlas (London, British Library MS Royal 20 E IX), f. 4 (detail). France and London, c. 1532-45.

[1] The Journal of the Northern Renaissance is delighted to welcome you to Polaris, a new feature dedicated to short polemics, position pieces, interviews, and conference and research reports. We hope these pages will provide a forum for dialogues and debates to develop, offering our authors and readers the chance to come together to discuss the Renaissance in the North. Comments are open on each post: please do contribute your own thoughts and responses. 

[2] Polaris is, we hope, a new way for JNR to tackle the questions that first gave rise to its creation. JNR originated in impulses not only to valorise but also to problematise and deconstruct what we mean by the ‘Northern Renaissance’. This umbrella term, used sometimes quite differently across different disciplines to demarcate distinctive periods and geographies, requires continual questioning. Does the very notion of a ‘northern renaissance’  not suggest an anachronistic inheriting of paradigms of a Southern European derivation? What are the implications for the study of cultural life in Northern Europe of the explosion of interest in the twenty-first century  in the notion of a global renaissance?  And, conversely, might a renewed focus on the particularities of the north serve to prick what Douglas Bruster, here in JNR, has characterised as ‘the new globalism’s bubble‘? In one of Polaris‘ inaugural posts, Heather Madar (Humboldt State) takes up the topic of ‘The Global Renaissance and the North‘. This, we hope, will be just the first of many examples of how Polaris will not only complement JNR‘s more formal explorations of alternative conceptualisations, geographies and periodisations, but also further JNR‘s ongoing move beyond its literary origins to such fields as art history, visual and material cultures, cultural studies, ritual studies, and, in JNR‘s most recent issue, the thinking and representation of number.

[3] At this point, then, we turn to you, our reader, in your other capacity, as writer. Would you be interested in this new writing opportunity available through the JNR? For Polaris’s launch, we have invited scholars, archivists and other academic figures to write on topics of their own choosing – and just as we have invited them, we would like to ask you too to contribute, either by replying to these posts (which can be done through the comments, or, if you would like to reply at greater length, through a separate, follow-up post) or by proposing and submitting your own. Posts on Polaris are shorter than journal articles, typically ranging from 750 to 3,000 words. They may adopt the typical style and format of academic articles, but we also want to present as open a platform as possible, and to take full advantage of being online by incorporating audio and visual material. We invite opinion and position pieces on the full range of cultural production across the Northern Renaissance. By opening posts to (moderated) comments, we also hope to further stimulate a real exchange of ideas, offering contributors the chance to receive scholarly (and perhaps also occasionally not-so-scholarly) feedback quickly online.

[4] For Polaris‘s launch we have four opening contributions. Coming from both senior and junior scholars, from both north and south, and from both sides of the Atlantic, they embody the diversity of voices we hope to maintain in the years to come. Heather Madar’s discussion of the Northern Renaissance within a global context has already been mentioned. Demmy Verbeke (KU Leuven) writes – very appropriately for a digital platform – upon the connections between the digital humanities and Renaissance scholarship. Ed Simon (LeHigh) has used Polaris to discuss the Mesoamerican mirror of Elizabethan court figure John Dee. Dimitra Koutla (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki) writes on political theory in the essays of Michel de Montaigne. 

[5] JNR exists to provoke new discussion on the Northern Renaissance, and we feel that Polaris is a new and exciting way for us to do this – to open it up and give scholars a new platform for commentaries and analyses for which a longer article might not be appropriate. We are looking for topics which you feel are relevant, and wish to write on – ranging from specific case studies of texts, objects and events to broader considerations of the geographical or chronological limits of the Northern Renaissance.

[6] We aim to release content for Polaris regularly, and hope you will be interested in joining us in this venture, as a reader, a contributor, or both. If you are interested in the possibilities raised by Polaris, and have  a proposal for a post or series of posts, please email, including ‘Polaris’ in the subject line.

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