Serendipities

The term serendipity was coined by Sir Horace Walpole on the 28th of January 1754, who, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, said that he had formed it upon the title of the fairy-tale The Three Princes of Serendip the heroes of which “were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of” — “that is, looking for one thing and finding another,” explains a nineteenth-century user of the word.

In life as well as research, I very often look for one thing and find another. On this blog, I record my serendipitous interests in the fields of early modern culture, the cultural history of emotions, ecocriticism, teaching English literature, and whatever else crosses my path.

My name is Kristine Steenbergh. I am a lecturer in English literature at the Vrije Universiteit (k[dot]steenbergh[at]vu[dot]nl) in Amsterdam. Between 2011 and 2016, I am a Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research VENI researcher. In my project Moving Scenes, I explore the role of the theatre in several contexts in which compassion is felt to be under pressure in early modern English culture. I analyse how compassion operates in the theatre, and how plays engage with social discussions about the limits of compassion.

I am co-founder of the Amsterdam Centre for Cross-Disiciplinary Emotion Studies and co-editor of Cultural History, the journal of the International Society for Cultural History.

3 thoughts on “Serendipities

  1. I may be blundering in here (and if so, please excuse me) but in googling on “pagond” I came to your (?) entry from May 10, 2006. I was trying to determine what “pagond” means (where it comes from etc.), and if you can be of any help, I’d be most appreciative. Thank you.

  2. Tim,
    The word “pagond” in the stage direction “Herode rageth in the pagond and in the streete also” that I cited in that post, is an older form of the word “pageant,” a play in a medieval mystery cycle. It is listed in the Oxford English Dictionary as one of the word’s many variants in use before the seventeenth century.

    The OED mentions that the word was also used for the (usually moveable) stage or platform on which the mystery plays were performed. That makes sense in the context of the quotation: Herod rages on the stage as well as in the street.

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