William Porter

William Porter

Graduate Fellow
The State of Nature in Renaissance England: Writing the Origins of Culture, 1492-1620


William Porter is a PhD candidate in English at Harvard University, where he works on Renaissance literature and culture. His research interests include travel literature and ethnography, the global Renaissance, theater, the history of science, and the environmental humanities.

Project Summary

William’s project explores Renaissance primitivism, looking to ethnography and literature that draws on ethnography to understand how early modern Europe imagined the origins and development of culture. The project demonstrates how conventional and experimental representations of the wider world and cultural alterity shaped early modern conceptions of culture according to a model of emergence from a state of nature. At I Tatti, William will connect early modern ethnography to some of the larger intellectual movements of the Italian Renaissance, broadening the ethnographic landscape by investigating, for example, the variety of ways in which Italian humanists appealed to the explanatory power of primitive humanity in their projects of recovery and in their wider investigations of history and culture.