Providential Modernity Seminar with Elsa Costa

The next Providential Modernity seminar will meet at 1:00PM on Thursday, March 5, in the Ahmadieh Family Conference Room (West Duke Building, room 101). The seminar will feature Elsa Costa (Ph.D. candidate in History, Duke University), discussing some of her work on the Spanish Empire during the Counterreformation and Enlightenment: “The Bourbon Ideology? Civic Eudaemonism and Secular Regalism in Imperial Spain.” Her research, recently conducted while on a Fulbright fellowship in Spain, documents the brief existence of a specifically post-Christian ideology of public happiness (or civic eudaemonism) intimately tied to Spanish regalism. The unique lexis associated with this ideology was in vogue from the early seventeenth century to the late eighteenth, and underwent several redefinitions as the Enlightenment emerged from the late Renaissance, mediated in part by the transition from Habsburg to Bourbon rule.

A vegetarian lunch will be served; please RSVP to receive a copy of the paper (and request parking on East Campus, if needed) to Amber Díaz Pearson.

Elsa is an intellectual historian concentrating on Spain and its possessions in the Renaissance and Enlightenment. Her dissertation, a study of the Spanish Empire during the Enlightenment, explores how political economy emerged from moral philosophy during the transition from Habsburg to Bourbon rule. Originally from Chicago, Elsa has a BA in Latin American studies from Bennington College and an MA in Ibero-American history from Duke. Her other interests include twentieth-century French, German and Brazilian philosophy, medieval theories of pedagogy, and women’s writing in contemporary Latin America. She has published or presented papers on all these topics. Her dissertation research took her to Madrid and to Mexico City, where she read the political theories of monks, priests, scientists, lawyers, royal advisors, dilettante scholars, aristocratic women, and others on a Fulbright-Hays grant. Far from the medieval notion it is sometimes assumed to be, the divine right of kings belongs to the Renaissance and early Enlightenment. Elsa has watched it emerge chronologically through these texts. Elsa is also a Humane Studies fellow and is at present involved in the founding of a new literary review. In her spare time, she enjoys watching the new TV series she discovered in Spain, like Élite, The Mysteries of Laura, Madrid is Burning and Just Before Christ.

The Providential Modernity seminar brings together faculty and graduate students from several area universities on a monthly basis to discuss work in the areas of history, political theology, and comparative sociology from Antiquity to the present. A key goal of the seminar is to place scholars of religion into conversation with one another and address scholarly challenges emerging from the post-secular age. “Providential modernity” encompasses a variety of social and political hopes, as well as anxieties, about the promise of history, sometimes expressed in millenarianism and apocalypticism, at other times in peaceful theodicies. In modern times, secular surrogates for providentialism found expression in revolution, social change, and the transformation of knowledge — ideas that have been conceptualized from Hegel to Fukuyama in discussions of the End of History. Many put their “faith” in “providential modernity,” while others, in despair, denied that history had any meaning at all. At the core of our deliberations will be an effort to deepen our grasp of the ways in which religions, Western and Eastern, both converge and differ in their understanding of providentialism, and how scholars may respond to the powerful working of religion in the postmodern age.