2008 Awards

Congratulations to the winners of Awards from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women for work published in 2007! The award-winning works are listed below.

Book |Collaborative Project | Translation | Graduate Student Essay |Essay | Arts and Media

The Awards were announced at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women on October 25, 2008.

Book Award:
Award: Gina Bloom, Voice in Motion: Staging Gender, Shaping Sound in Early Modern England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007)

Gina Bloom’s Voice in Motion: Staging Gender, Shaping Sound in Early Modern England  is a rich and dynamic text that demonstrates the strengths of interdisciplinary scholarship by bringing together theater history, sound studies, gender history, and feminist theory. In her carefully-researched book. The author explores the human voice in early modern English theater, as she explains the materiality of the voice from the act of speaking to that of hearing. She demonstrates the instability of the voice by focusing on pubescent boys playing women on stage with their voices breaking and on the clogged ears of prospective audiences. As Anne Cotterilli elegantly wrote in her H-Albion review, “part of this book’s originality and achievement lies in the author’s ability to sharply focus on and articulate the subtle materiality of what might seem immaterial, and to make the reader listen in these plays to the drama of speech as moving breath and sound.” This excellent book will speak to readers of disciplines and will inspire more of us to think across traditional disciplines.

Honorable Mention: Bernadette Andrea, Women and Islam in Early Modern English Literature (Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paolo, Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2007)
Bernadette Andrea’s Women and Islam in Early Modern English Literature brings together two important areas of research in early modern studies: feminist analysis and postcolonial research on Islam. In the process, the book uncovers fascinating new material such as the correspondence between Elizabeth I and the Ottoman Queen Mother Safiye, and this material not only expands our understanding of the interrelationship between England and the Islamic world, but also powerfully demonstrates the complex roles that women and issues of gender played in these cultural exhanges.

Collaborative Project
Award: Diana Robin, Anne R. Larsen, and Carole Levin, eds., Encyclopedia of Women in the Renaissance: Italy, France, and England (Santa Barbara, CA; Denver, CO; and Oxford, England: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2007)

The Encyclopedia of Women in the Renaissance: Italy, France, and England has amassed a vast amount of scholarship and created a very useful reference tool, with essential bibliographical references that will provide an important starting point for further research for both scholars and students. As a collaborative effort, it has brought together and made more visible women who have primarily been known only to scholars working on specific time periods, disciplines, or countries. By bringing them together as a chronological group, including three countries that provide a rich panoply of religious and political differences, the end message of this volume is overwhelming. Women were hardly invisible in the past, just neglected by history; however, here finally they all are, re-instated in a Who’s Who of early modern womanhood, all credited with the (often substantial) role that they played in the intellectual, cultural, religious and political history of early modern Europe. For anyone who cares to read the volume through, a transversal reading brings to light common strategies and class differences, and permits an understanding that has never been possible before of the role played by gender in the individual life strategies of women in early modern Europe.

Honorable Mention: Margaret L. King and Albert Rabil Jr., eds., Teaching Other Voices: Women and Religion in Early Modern Europe (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007)

Teaching Other Voices shows an impressive breadth across chronology, geography, and genre. Essays consider religious writing from fifteenth-century holy women’s writings to seventeenth-century autobiography and many things in between, with examples drawn from writers in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. The main strength of the collection is the way its authors write with such loving thoughtfulness and articulate a set of best pedagogical practices. Across the volume, the essays serve as catalysts for reconsidering conventions of reading and teaching from different, and often separate, disciplinary perspectives.

The collection is divided into five sections to sort its fourteen essays geographically and chronologically. The frameworks that surrounds these essays are useful in their own right, comprised as they are of prefatory materials including an essay on “The Historical Context,” a chronology, and sample ways of using materials in “Courses and Modules,” and an appendix, “Approaches to Teaching Presented in the Volume,” which outlines the primary texts and suggests approaches to including these works in various courses.

Josephine A. Roberts Scholarly Edition
(no award this year)

Translation or Teaching Edition
Award: Nieves Romero-Díaz, editor and translator of María de Guevara, Warnings to the Kings and Advice on Restoring Spain: A Bilingual Edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007)
Romero-Díaz’s edition of the texts of María de Guevara brings to light an important chapter in the history of early modern women’s writing and makes a significant scholarly contribution. Guevara’s work provides a fascinating example of woman-authored political/reformist writing and shows that some women could and did write in genres generally considered exclusively male. The work would have extensive teaching applications ranging from an examination of Guevara’s gendered rhetoric to broader themes in the early modern world including nationalistic anti-Semitism, proto-feminism from a dominant class position, the combination of political conservatism with feminism, and the discourse of male decadence. Romero-Díaz’s preparation of these texts is also exemplary. With lucid translations, excellent notes, and a clear and informative introduction she has presented a work that has both scholarly and pedagogical significance.

Honorable Mention: Lisa Shapiro, editor and translator of The Correspondence between Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia and René Descartes (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007)

The translation of this significant correspondence makes available to scholars and students an important chapter in the history of philosophy. Shapiro points to Princess Elisabeth’s stature as a philosopher and not simply someone who corespoonded with a philosopher. Thus, both historians of philosophy and historians of women will find this to be a rich and significant text

Graduate Student Conference Paper:
Award: Sarah Johnson, “Disturbing Physicality: Mother Sawyer and Her ‘Sweet Tom-Boy’ in The Witch of Edmonton,” presented at the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference in Minneapolis, MN, October 27, 2007.

Even though Johnson discusses a male-authored play, her discussion focuses in provocative ways on Mother Sawyer, the main witch character, and how community attitudes bring her into being as a transgressive woman.  The discussion, therefore, has interest even to those outside of the literature field because it deals with identity formation and the very complicated association between women’s verbal and bodily transgressions.  Her argument is convincing and well-researched.  Furthermore, according to the nominating letter, it inspired “intense” conversation at the SCSC.  It is, perhaps, not as accessible to those outside of literature as one would like, but it has much more depth, complexity, and sophistication than the other candidate for the award.

Essay or Article:
Award: Ann Crabb, “‘If I could write’: Margherita Datini and Letter Writing, 1385-1410,” Renaissance Quarterly 60 (2007): 1170-1206.

This article is particularly fascinating, well-researched, well-written, and of great interest to anyone interested in women’s history and especially the development of women’s literacy.  Crabb tells the story of Margherita Datini in a clear and effective manner, and she offers ample evidence for her general argument about partial literacy and her more particular argument about how Datini developed her own literacy.  The images further support the argument.  The essay is, of course, published in a leading interdisciplinary journal of early modern studies.

Honorable Mention: Elizabeth S. Cohen, “Back Talk: Two Prostitutes’ Voices from Rome c. 1600,” Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal 2 (2007), pp. 95-126.

This essay is engaging and well-written. It provides useful information about sex work in early modern Italy, and about how women in this occupation may have found ways for their voices to be heard.  This essay, like Crabb’s, offers increased knowledge about the lives and literacies of early modern Italian women that are compelling for people in all disciplines.

Arts and Media:
Award: Musica Secreta, Alessandro Grandi, Motetti a cinque voci (1614) (Divine Art digital audio compact disc, 2007).

Although the motets selected for this CD were composed by a male, they were dedicated to Margherita Gonzaga d’Este, who promoted women musicians both at her husband Alphonso’s court in Ferrara and after her retirement to a convent in Mantua.   Despite their scoring for the traditional four parts (soprano, alto, tenor, bass), the motets were likely sung entirely by women in Ferrara and in this Mantuan convent, and, the writers of the liner notes convincingly argue, in all convents of the time.  Musica Secreta is an organization dedicated to the recovery, performance, and recording of music associated with women in the early modern period.  The music of the CD is beautifully performed and professionally produced.

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