Orientalism in Early Modern Rome

Daniel Stolzenberg
UC Davis

This project is a history of Orientalist scholarship in Rome from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries, focusing on the city’s unique constellation of institutions that fostered expertise in Arabic, Hebrew and other Near Eastern languages. By showing how Catholic agendas turned Rome into a hub for the circulation of materials, people, and knowledge between Christian and Islamic societies, it offers new insight on cross-cultural exchange in the early modern Mediterranean and challenges the view of Roman scholarship as stagnant after the Galileo Affair. Relating Rome to parallel developments in other parts of Europe, the project argues for humanist scholarship’s ongoing role as an agent of modernity in the age of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, and challenges received wisdom by arguing that Orientalist scholarship first developed primarily, not as a study of a non-Christian or non-European “Other,” but as an investigation into the roots of Christianity.