1616: The World in Motion

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On April 21 at 6 p.m. in Blount Auditorium in Buckman Hall at Rhodes College, “Communities in Conversation” will host Thomas Christensen speaking about his book 1616: The World in Motion. 1616 was a momentous year, marked not only by the deaths of Shakespeare and Cervantes, but also cultural contact (and conflict) around the globe: Japan was closed to foreigners; Pocahontas visited London; Galileo discussed heliocentrism at the Vatican; a smallpox epidemic decimated the indigenous population of New England; Harvey lectured on the circulation of blood; and the first slaves arrived in the Bermudas. Writer Thomas Christensen will survey 1616 as a year of the “World in Motion” by discussing fascinating images from the visual arts in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. There will be a reception at 5:30 p.m. preceding the lecture, and his talk will be followed by a book signing.

Christensen’s address will be the keynote for Rhodes’ celebration of the 400th anniversary of the death of Shakespeare. On Friday April 22, Pearce Shakespeare Endowment will host a symposium on the year 1616, with lectures across the liberal arts and a performance based on the last days of Shakespeare’s life. All events are free and open to the public.

Christensen’s talk focuses on a single year, 1616, to express the extravagance, movement, and advances of the age. The book concentrates on the players whose writings, speeches, and discoveries pushed the world towards modernity. He includes images and artwork from the period to bring this early modern moment to life for the reader. He explores themes like the growth of private companies with a focus on the Dutch East India Company, or the advancement of science by Kepler and Galileo. He discusses the early redefinition of women’s roles and the emergence of women as writers, including Dorothy Leigh. And he discusses the end of a literary era with the death of Shakespeare and Cervantes. Christensen takes a global view to make sense of the worldwide movement towards a globalized world.

Thomas Christensen is the author of New World/New Words: Recent Writing from the Americas, A Bilingual Anthology, The U.S.–Mexican War, Bridge to Understanding: The Art and Architecture of San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum, and The Discovery of America and Other Myths, as well as translations of books by such authors as Laura Esquivel, Carlos Fuentes, Julio Cortázar, Alejo Carpentier and Louis-Ferdinand Céline. His work as a translator has earned him an award from the American Literary Translators Association. He works as the director of publications for the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and serves on the panel for the National Endowment for the Arts. His newest book, 1616 was named one of the ten best history books of the season by Publishers Weekly.

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