Congratulations to all our 2013 award winners
Eleanor Hubbard, City Women: Money, Sex, and the Social Order in Early Modern
London, Oxford University Press, 2012.
For its ambition, scope, precision, and elegance, we award the SSEMW Book Prize to
Eleanor Hubbard for her City Women: Money, Sex, and the Social Order in Early Modern
London (Oxford 2012). Centered in London between 1570 and 1640, City Women
recovers the voices of ordinary women as they navigated the challenges, choices, and
ambitions of their lives. Drawing powerfully on consistory depositions, which Hubbard
usefully supplements with conduct books, broadside ballads, and satirical tracts, City
Women offers genuinely new insight into the lived lives of early modern women. The
focus on the lower-middling sort is intriguing, and the book tells us a huge amount about
seventeenth-century London, as well as about women. It’s a truly engaging read, as a
beautifully crafted historical narrative emerges from the archival work. The city and its
inhabitants, male and female, are brought alive. The book is impressive in the depth of its
archival research, sophisticated in its quantitative analyses, and inventive in its collective
biography. This elegantly written monograph is likely to be a major intervention and,
with its 21 figures and tables, an indispensable resource.
Carol Pal. Republic of Women: Rethinking the Republic of Letters in the Seventeenth
Century. Cambridge, 2012.
JOSEPHINE ROBERTS AWARD FOR A SCHOLARLY EDITION
Elizabeth Heale, The Devonshire Manuscript: A Women’s Book of Courtly Poetry.
Toronto: The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe: The Toronto Series 19.
Toronto: Iter Inc. and Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2012.
Elizabeth Heale’s edition of The Devonshire Manuscript brings this important collection
of Tudor poetry into print for the first time in an outstanding contribution to Toronto’s
The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe Series. Heale’s subtitle, “A Women’s Book
of Courtly Poetry,” announces her intention to demonstrate the gendered production and
circulation of The Devonshire Manuscript, better known for its inclusion of the work
of such canonical male poets as Sir Thomas Wyatt than for the women who owned,
copied, commented upon, edited, and contributed to the manuscript. Heale’s introduction
meticulously outlines the varied evidence for reconstructing the composition practices of
Mary (Howard) Fitzroy, Lady Mary Douglas, and Mary Shelton, illuminating their active
participation—and interventions—in the literary culture of the Henrican court. This
beautifully produced volume preserves our sense of the original by including comparative
plates of the various hands that contributed to the manuscript and by graphically
reproducing the numerical and symbolic annotations in the modern print transcription.
While it may seem incredible that such a significant manuscript has been unavailable in
print until now, we can only be grateful that the first authoritative edition was undertaken
by Heale, whose intelligent, careful, and graceful scholarly edition brings this richly
documented example of early modern women’s literary practices vividly into view.
BEST COLLABORATIVE PROJECT
Sarah E. Owens and Jane E. Mangan, Women of the Iberian Atlantic. Baton Rouge:
Louisiana State University Press, 2012.
Women of the Iberian Atlantic makes a significant contribution not only to literature on
the Atlantic World, but also to the history of early modern women more generally. The
volume offers a substantial introduction that rethinks traditional approaches to the study
of women both in Europe and in the early modern presence in the New World. The entire
project (introduction and the following chapters) tackles the traditional divide between
studies of Spain and those of the colonies-Empire-future Latin America. The volume
challenges the notion that any set idea of gender norms (Spanish or Colonial) can be
asserted, and uses gender as a lens to analyze the complex dialogue between Spain and its
colonies. In doing so, it shows readers how gender can be used as a tool of inquiry into
other questions of identity, nation, and empire, rather than a category that has to be kept
separate from these questions.
Each of the essays in Women of the Iberian Atlantic shows impressive historiographical
sophistication. Instead of adapting familiar models from European history—biography,
patronage, institutions, technologies, science—the frameworks developed by the authors
respond to the specificity of the lives of women who were moving, laboring, writing,
proselytizing, governing, and healing in culturally diverse and fluctuating conditions. In
this way, the essays open up new ways of thinking about the early modern period and the
lives of women within it. The coherent organization of the volume makes Women of the
Iberian Atlantic as useful for teaching as it is for scholarship.
Meredith K. Ray and Lynn Lara Westwater, Eds. and Trans. Letters Familiar and
Formal by Arcangela Tarabotti. The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe: The
Toronto Series 20. Toronto: Iter Inc. and Centre for Reformation and Renaissance
Ray and Westwater’s edited translation of the letters of Arcangela Tarabotti provides
a valuable window into the life and works of the unwilling Venetian nun. Confined to
the cloister, Tarabotti never gave up her struggle against her forced monachization in
treatises condemning male perfidy and the practice of consigning unwanted daughters to
the convent. Her collected letters testify to her eager participation in the broader literary
world and their publication in1650 was designed to assert her own identity as a writer
and to demonstrate her intellectual and social ties to her many correspondents. She would
surely be delighted by this elegant and scholarly edition of her letters, which reestablishes
her importance. A lucid and beautifully written introduction situates social and religious
trends in seventeenth-century Venice, and describes Tarabotti’s cultural, political, and
literary context as a nun for whom the convent was both an irksome prison and a space
in which – despite increasingly strict enclosure – she was able to flourish as a woman of
letters. The letters themselves, whose ornate style and apparent lack of chronological or
thematic organization pose a challenge to any editor, have been skillfully translated and
carefully edited with extensive and helpful footnotes. Whether or not they read Italian,
scholars will find Ray and Westwater’s work to be a highly useful guide to a fascinating
BEST TEACHING EDITION
Michelle M. Dowd and Thomas Festa. Early Modern Women on the Fall: An
Anthology. Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies Series. Tempe: Arizona
State University, 2012.
Michelle M. Dowd and Thomas Festa have produced an excellent and eminently usable
teaching edition with their anthology Early Modern Women on the Fall. Organized
chronologically, this volume spans the seventeenth century from Amelia Lanyer’s “Salve
Deus Judaeorum” (1611) to Lady Mary Chudleigh’s “The Ladie’s Defense” (1701).
The thematic focus on female interpretations and revisions of scriptural accounts of the
fall lends coherence to the anthology, while also allowing the editors to showcase the
generic range of seventeenth century women’s writing in England, including polemical
pamphlets, educational treatises, domestic manuals, private devotional poetry, and
ambitious rewritings of Genesis. The work of the eighteen women represented in these
pages reflects their different class positions, religious affiliations, literary temperaments,
and philosophical arguments, helpfully introducing student readers to the diversity of
early modern women’s writing strategies. Dowd and Feste’s introduction provides a
brisk yet comprehensive overview of some of the most important political, religious, and
social controversies of seventeenth-century Europe. This usefully frames these women’s
works in the larger intellectual debates of the day rather representing them as the isolated
products of singular biographical subjects. Neither condescending to its target audience
nor defensive about its subject, this anthology’s most important contribution may well be
offering students a modern edition that confidently assumes women writers as significant
and eloquent contributors to early modern culture.
Deidre Serjeantson, “Anne Lock’s anonymous friend: A meditiation of a penitent
sinner and the problem of ascription.” Enigma and Revelation in Renaissance
English Literature. Ed. Cooney and Sweetnam. Portland, OR: Fourt Courts Press,
2012 pp. 51-68.
In “Anne Lock’s anonymous friend: A meditation of a penitent sinner and the problem
of ascription,” Deidre Serjeantson investigates the authorship of two texts that were
published together in 1560: an English translation of four sermons Calvin delivered
in Geneva in 1558 and a sonnet sequence, A Meditation of a penitent sinner: written
in manner of a paraphrase upon the 51. Psalme of David. Unlike the translation, which
appeared with the initials A. L. despite its potentially heretical status, the sonnet sequence
—the first sonnet sequence written in English—is anonymous. In an exceptionally
detailed but engaging fashion, Serjeantson lucidly reviews earlier attempts to establish
authorship of each text before persuasively ascribing both to Anne Lock. Throughout her
study, Serjeantson considers questions of authorship in the unique concerns of the Marian
exiles, whose anxiety about charges of heresy, desire to influence Elizabeth’s religious
policy, and conflicted attitudes towards women’s assumption of religious authority are
carefully reconstructed. Locating Anne Lock in a close network of female and male
radical Protestants, Serjeantson vividly recreates the tensions and motives that could have
led Lock to avoid claiming authorship of Meditation, which, as a paraphrase, violated
strictures against women’s preaching.
Diana Henderson, “Where Had all the Flowers Gone? The Missing Space of Female
Sonneteers in Seventeenth-Century England.” Renaissance/Reformation 35.1
(Winter 2012): 139-165.
BEST ART AND MEDIA PROJECT
Paul Salzman, Mary Wroth’s Poetry, An Electronic Edition: http://
Paul Salzman has designed an elegant and useful electronic edition of Mary
Wroth’s Poetry. The website is both easy to navigate and an impressive teaching
tool to show students and scholars the importance of variants in editions. The
site is a wonderful instrument for teaching both poetry and the materiality of texts,
opening up opportunities for thinking about and encouraging the study of the
history of women in new ways.
BEST GRADUATE PRESENTATION
Erin McCarthy, “Gendering Inclusivity and Access in Aemilia Lanyer’s Salve Deus
Rex Judaeorum” (Presented at RSA 2012)
McCarthy’s cogent and clearly-developed essay combines close textual readings and
thoughtful analysis in her approach to Aemilia Lanyer’s collection of poetry, with
attentiveness to both the materiality of print and the author’s social network. McCarthy
deftly handles a complex web of considerations—from rhetorical strategies and
dedications, to the volume of paper used for the collection and the business of print—
to generate productive insights about the limitations and possibilities for early modern
women opened up through publishing in print.