2011 Awards

Congratulations to the winners of Awards from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women for work published in 2010! The Awards will be announced formally at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women on October 20, 2011 The award-winning works are listed below.


EMW currently seeks nominations for awards. Any work that focuses on women and gender in the early modern period (1450-1750) is eligible.

To nominate a work published in 2010 for the 2011 awards, please submit 3 copies of the work by 1 January 2012 to the chair of the EMW Awards Committee.

Book Award:

Award: Margaret P. Hannay, Mary Sidney, Lady Wroth (Ashgate Press, 2010)

Margaret P. Hannay’s study is the first book-length critical biography of one of early modern England’s most significant female writers. A deftly woven synthesis of historical, archival, and literary materials, Mary Sidney, Lady Wroth marks an important milestone in scholarship on early modern women. Working with a wide range of sources, sketching the numerous characters in Wroth’s life story, and untangling Wroth’s own inclusion of autobiographical details in her prose romance, Urania, Hannay weaves a prodigious amount of information into a compelling and engaging scholarly narrative. Her discussion extends into multiple aspects of early seventeenth-century English literary production, society, and politics, providing crucial context for a wide range of readers. The author has also made a significant number of factual discoveries, on the basis of which she meticulously and generously corrects errors and assumptions found in earlier scholarship. At the same time, her book remains open-ended: she allows for the possibility and indeed the hope that further discoveries about Wroth may be made. Hannay’s citation and evaluation of so much of the bibliography on Mary Sidney, Lady Wroth augments the usefulness of this important study.

Honorable Mention: Marie-Louise Coolahan, Women, Writing and Language in Early Modern Ireland (Oxford University Press, 2010)

This book is exemplary for its original contribution to early modern women’s studies. Coolahan’s approach utilizes the tools of literary criticism–specifically, genre theory–to analyze some familiar and many neglected writings by and about early modern women in Ireland. She productively theorizes her use of evidence, and advances a convincing assessment of women’s authorship in the period. The committee was impressed with the book’s balance of textual explication based on rhetorical and narratological methods and its precise historical contextualization drawing on extensive archival research. Its engagement with questions of religion, language, and nation as they bear on constructions of early modern women’s writing in Ireland offers a complex view of the subject.

Collaborative Project

Award: Caroline Bicks and Jennifer Summit, eds. The History of British Women’s Writing, Volume 2: 1500-1610 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)

This book provides a social (or sociological) history of women’s writings and what the editors describe as women’s “everyday encounters with the written word” (4).  In so doing, it capitalizes on the (very) broad-ranging scholarship on women’s authorship and women’s literacy in this early modern period that has emerged over the last two decades.  The authors emphasize the ideas of network and the act of writing as an exchange of information, sentiment, and ideas.  They take up a multiplicity of genres, some within the traditional literary canon and some not, in ways that illuminate the activities of women and men as writers and users of writing in this critical period of literary growth. At the core of the volume is an expanded idea of the “literary endeavor” that places the achievement of milestone writing in the big genres alongside the collaborative and community acts of writing that pervaded the culture.  The introduction to the volume is particularly strong and traces the scholarly shifts that have encouraged this kind of study.  The range of topics mutually illumine one another, and the cohesiveness of the resultant volume does not ever mask the diversity of approach and finding on the part of the individual scholars who have contributed to the project.  In short, this is the kind of study that really can only be completed in collaboration, for it requires the lens of multiple scholarly perspectives and approaches. In addition to the feminist topics of race, class, and gender, the collection meaningfully engages with place, idiom, and cultural meaning and production.  This is a landmark volume that will become a new starting point for studies of early modern literacy and for women’s role within an emergent literary culture.

Josephine A. Roberts Scholarly Edition
Michael G. Brennan, Noel J. Kinnamon, and Margaret P. Hannay, eds.  The Correspondence (c. 1626-1659) of Dorothy Percy Sidney, Countess of Leicester.  The Early Modern Englishwoman 1500-1750: Contemporary Editions. Series Ed. Betty S. Travitsky and Anne Lake Prescott (Ashgate Press, 2010)

It is hard to imagine a more comprehensive, meticulously researched, and minutely detailed edition than this one of the correspondence of Dorothy Percy Sidney, Countess of Leicester, from the early reign of Charles I through to her death on the eve of the Stuart restoration in 1659, by the experienced editorial team of Brennan, Kinnamon, and Hannay (editors of writings by Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, as well as by Robert Sidney, first Earl of Leicester, and Barbara Gamage Sidney, Countess of Leicester).  The substantial introduction is divided into major chronological and thematic sections—childhood and family, courtship, early married life and family connections, 1620s court politics, 1630s/40s royal service, an invaluable thematic  outline Dorothy Percy Sidney’s writings, and a detailed portrait of the Sidney complex fortunes during the English Civil Wars and Commonwealth (with moving commentary by her husband, brother, and son at the time of her death). At least as useful, however, are the numerous aids to readers, both early  (family trees, chronology, and an amusingly helpful note on the impossibility of keeping family names straight) and late (a list of persons and places, Dorothy’s biblical notes, and a catalogue of her library), above and beyond the immaculately presented letters themselves, which are fully contextualized with dates, authors, recipients, manuscript identifications, and explanatory notes.  All of which makes the letters themselves a rich and entirely accessible trove of information about individuals in pivotal positions in England and Ireland throughout the mid-seventeenth century, most especially during the contentious 1640s and 1650s.  As the editors themselves note in a rare departure from their strict policy of editorial assistance-without-interference, scholars have discussed Dorothy’s son Algernon Sidney’s complicity in the 1683 Rye House Plot to assassinate Charles II and his brother James for 300 years—yet “hardly any attention has been paid to the role of his mother in forming his earliest political perspectives.  This is because very little has previously been known about her increasingly important role from the 1630s onward in her family’s domestic and political life.  We hope that this collection of her correspondence will go some way towards addressing this significant omission in Sidney studies and political history.”  We hope so too.

Translation or Teaching Edition
Domna Stanton and Rebecca Wilkin, eds., Gabrielle Suchon, A Woman Who Defends All the Persons of her Sex: Selected Philosophical and Moral Writings (University of Chicago Press, 2010).

The material content of this volume–on study and reading as the basis of intellectual life, and on the place of women outside of more traditional roles in the Ancien Régime–is of use to scholars, not just students. The translation itself is eloquent, and the work it recovers reflects a unique perspective on gender in the age of Louis XIV. The introductory essay places this important contribution into biographical and cultural perspective and clarifies a number of aspects of Suchon’s philosophy. The notes do a good job of handling the translation issues that necessarily arise in an endeavor such as this.

Honorabl Mention: David F. Hult, ed., Chirstine de Pizan, Debate of the “Romance of the Rose”, (University of Chiciago Press, 2010).

Hult’s elegant, albeit not overly extensive, presentation of the material, and the pitch of his introduction were right for an undergraduate audience faced with the difficult Rose material.  The committee appreciated the fact that the translation didn’t focus exclusively on Christine’s (i.e. the woman’s) contribution, but instead gathered together a number of the Rose-related documents so that readers could consider Christine’s contributions in context with other primary materials.  This approach leads to a much richer understanding both of her writings and the gender and gendered implications of the debate. The volume seemed very teachable.   It’s also one of the few volumes in this series where male voices are juxtaposed with a female voice.  This serves as an important reminder for students (and, sometimes, for scholars) that women did not write in a bubble inhabited only by other women, but were part of mainstream scholarly discourse, and that the “woman question” was in and of itself an important part of mainstream scholarly discourse during the period.

Graduate Student Conference Paper: NO AWARD.

Essay or Article:
Paula McQuade, “A Knowing People:  Early Modern Motherhood, Female Authorship, and Working-Class Community in Dorothy Burch’s A Catechism of the Several Heads of the Christian Religion,” Prose Studies 32.3 (December 2010): 167-86.

This is a deft discussion of the little-known Dorothy Burch, and a fascinating commentary on the widespread female authorship and use of catechisms for women. McQuade attends in unfailing depth and clarity to “the factors that enabled Burch … to enter into early modern print culture”, creating a detailed and compelling picture of Burch’s situation in Puritan Kent. McQuade makes extensive and exemplary use of local archival materials–county histories, public records, taxation lists, churchwardens’ accounts–to introduce and make legitimately ambitious claims for the 1649 Catechism of Dorothy Burch, a loving, intellectual, and engaged provincial wife and mother who had full community support for her decision to write and publish an instructional text not only for her family and community, but as part of the larger provincial and national debates taking place in 1640s England.  Explicitly countering current fascination with murderously “subversive maternity,” as well as with women writers who are either “noble” in status or “heterodox” in religion, McQuade recalls Margaret Ezell’s seminal study on writing women’s literary history to re-inquire, almost 20 years later, “why we, as critics, have taken so long to include such texts in our studies of Renaissance women writers.” This is a rich and suggestive piece, and McQuade’s control of her materials, argument, and writing is astonishing.

Honorable Mention: Allyson M. Poska, “Babies on Board:  Women, Children and Imperial Policy in the Spanish Empire,” Gender and History 22.2 (August 2010):  269-83.

Poska offers a fascinating study of the eighteenth-century Spanish resettlement of families from Galicia in Spain to Patagonia in South America, a project proposed in 1778 by José de Gálvez, Minister of the Indies for Carlos III, and astonishingly administered by the Enlightenment bureaucrat Jorge Astraudi.  Astraudi took total “paternal” care of 1921 men, women, and children at every stage of travel–from before embarkation, through the transatlantic crossing, to after the families’ arrival in the Americans–attending to everything from “nappies” to a rebellion by fathers against the Spanish government on the topic of nursing and infant nutrition.  Poska contextualizes her remarkably rich archival report in three ways.  First, she identifies earlier European efforts at the supervised relocation of families.  Second, she notes the perceived benefits of such schemes, including harnessing untapped labor, encouraging demographic growth, relocating labor and reproduction from over- to under-served locations, providing colonial (and racial) control of “heathen and enemy Indians,” and using state intervention in “domestic governance” to improve and control populations.  Finally, she contrasts the Spanish scheme with very different contemporary programs by the French, Dutch, and Portuguese governments.  Poska’s appreciation of the ingenuity and commitment of the Patagonian project is refreshingly non-ideological; her argument is a captivating and persuasive one; and the piece opens up to its readers an enriching and potentially wide-ranging discussion.

Arts and Media:
Award: La Donna Musicale, with Laury Gutierrez (director), Julianne Baird (soprano), and Renee Rapier (contralto), Anna Bon: La virtuosa di Venezia [CD]

This CD brings to public attention the compositional output of eighteenth-century virtuosa and composer Anna Bon in finely honed performances by a modern ensemble devoted to the works of early modern women composers.  As with their earlier recordings, this array of arias, divertimenti, and sonatas reflects the ensemble’s firm grounding in the archival and scholarly world.  The essays and translations that accompany the recording seek to make the world of musical creation of the period transparent to the non-specialist. But above all the album is notable for its nuanced interpretations, particularly of the vocal works, with stellar performances by Julianne Baird and Renee Rapier. The introduction of historically-informed ornamentation and the careful shaping of musical line makes the works contained herein a pleasure to hear as well as a complement to the more standard works of the important transitional era between high Baroque and Classical era practices.

Updated October 5, 2011 . KLN


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