2023 Awards

SSEMWG Publication Awards for 2023


Book Award (Scholarly Monographs)

Mihoko Suzuki, Antigone’s Example: Early Modern Women’s Political Writing in Times of Civil War from Christine de Pizan to Helen Maria Williams.

Mihoko Suzuki’s Antigone’s Example is an extraordinary account of political writings by women in France and England from the late Middle Ages to the early nineteenth century. Crossing the usual boundaries of periodization and nation, Suzuki explores the continuities in how early modern women responded to civil war, as extreme situations enabled and compelled women to write in defense of their families and communities and thus gain a voice in a public sphere that normally excluded them. Whatever side they were on, they presented themselves as mediators, much like Antigone, whose example, Suzuki writes, represented a model of female defiance and political agency. This insightful book opens up fresh perspectives on canonical writings and brings relatively neglected writings to the reader’s attention, showing the importance of transnational study of early modern women.

Honorable Mention:

Grace E. Coolidge, Sex, Gender, and Illegitimacy in the Castilian Noble Family, 1400-1600

Grace Coolidge’s Sex, Gender, and Illegitimacy in the Castilian Noble Family, 1400-1600 is a wonderfully written and accessible account of the remarkable history of sexual transgression among Castilian nobles, for whom illegitimate offspring was not a liability but a potential advantage in securing inheritance and maintaining dynastic power. Nobles often had children with multiple women, including servants and slaves, who might live with the family and take up unusual positions in the large household. Coolidge’s exemplary archival research brings these noble families to life, as she discusses noble fathers, mothers, and children to arrive at a complex assessment of the political, economic, and social significance of illegitimacy in early modern Spain.

Honorable Mention:

Bronagh Ann McShane, Irish Women in Religious Orders, 1530-1700: Suppression, Migration, and Reintegration

Bronagh Ann McShane’s Irish Women in Religious Orders, 1530-1700 is a fascinating account of the experiences and journeys religious Irish women underwent in the period between the Henrician dissolution of monasteries to the end of the seventeenth century, both in Ireland and in continental Europe. Despite archival limitations inherent to Irish convents due to political and religious turbulence, McShane engages with a variegated corpus of sources to bring to the fore the lives and contribution of religious Irish women and locates them in the broader tradition of studies on European early modern female monasticism. In doing this, McShane provides an insightful exploration of both Irish female devotion and piety, and female migration networks in France, the Spanish Netherlands, and Portugal.


Essay/Article Award co-winners

Christoffer Basse Erikesen and Xinyi Wen, “Colouring Flowers: Books, Art, and Experiment in the Household of Margery and Henry Power,” The British Journal of the History of Science 56 (2023): 21-43.

This important intervention into the study of early modern women and science highlights the key, if unacknowledged, role that Margery Power, who produced detailed botanical illustrations and experimented with pigments to produce a precise “chromatic vocabulary,” played in her husband Henry’s understanding of plants. Situating their research in ongoing studies of the often unacknowledged place of women in early modern science, Eriksen and Wen use a detailed study of historical library catalogues, botanical texts (including ones painted over by Power herself), albums of paintings, and household notebooks to clearly demonstrate the “epistemic importance” of women in scientific households.

Dyani J. Taff, “Rivers and Bogs: Slow Protests in Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko,” Coastal Studies & Society 2 (2023): 38-57.

Taff’s essay offers a formally sensitive reading of Behn’s novel, focusing not only on the characters and the narrative voice, but also on the watery environments (historical and depicted in the story) in which the novel of enslavement takes place. Her compelling reading of the text as a possible protest novel importantly relies not on some vision of Behn as white woman savior, but instead on a sharp and well-researched reading practice, at once ecocritical and attentive to critical race studies, that allows Taff to find alternatives to the enslaving and colonial mindset that structures much of the novel itself.

Editions Award (critical editions of primary sources) — Josephine Roberts Award for a Scholarly Edition


Megan Matchinske, ed. The Carleton Bigamy Trial


This engaging volume brings together seven pamphlets focused on Mary Carleton’s bigamy trial, offering a kaleidoscopic range of genres and voices through which to conceive of truth as gendered and historically contingent. Matchinske’s introduction frames the pamphlets in their historical context, couching the reliability of truth claims and authentic oaths in post-Civil War England, when “the problem of fidelity was both epidemic and irresolvable” (19). Carleton’s trial was sensationalized in her own time, as the possibilities of the impermanence of the marriage oath reflected those of political and spiritual allegiances, and will indeed resonate with twenty-first century readers. These pamphlets, taken together, also characterize Carleton as a woman trying to make her way in the world, fashioning her identity as she navigates cultural shifts and legal challenges. This multi-layered volume is applicable across scholarly disciplines and will garner broad appeal, from undergraduate students to scholars interested in early modern women, history, and the law.

Editions Award (critical editions of primary sources) — Scholarly Edition in Translation


Hélène E. Bilis, Jean-Vincent Blanchard, David Harrison, and Hélène Visentin, eds. La Princesse de Clèves by Lafayette: A New Translation and Bilingual Pedagogical Edition for the Digital Age.

This edition, published open-access under a creative commons license, represents the many ways in which the functionality of e-books can positively impact pedagogical practices, including of early modern texts. The bilingual presentation enables not only a deeper engagement with the text by facilitating easy movement between the French and English translation but also provides students the opportunity to consider the translation process itself as an interpretive act. This revelation is furthered through dynamic content, including a video explaining the process and choices made in translating the first sentence of the novel and lexical essays on important key terms within the novel. The world of La Princesse de Clèves is similarly enriched via an interactive geographical map, social network mapping, and audio discussions with scholars on the literary context of the novel. The numerous ideas for classroom activities and student engagements sprinkled throughout the introduction will certainly assist inclusion of this Early Modern woman writer into many language and literature courses.

Collaborative Project Award co-winners

Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, Danielle Clarke, and Sarah C. E. Ross, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Women’s Writing in English, 1540-1700 (Oxford University Press, 2023)

This monumental contribution to the study of early modern English women writers brings together over fifty contributors to address topics as various as race, transnationality, queerness, and periodization, as well as offering in-depth studies of forms, locations, networks, and knowledges. The wide-ranging and forward-looking introduction to the volume explores the stakes, and costs, of the fact that the study of women writers has obtained status as a field, and the volume accomplishes, as their introduction promises, an alteration of “the critical emphasis [in the study of women writers] from uniqueness and ex­ceptionalism to a focus on commonality and embeddedness.”

Valerie Schutte and Jessica S. Hower, eds. Mary I in Writing: Letters, Literature, and Representation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022)

These two volumes offer an in-depth exploration of Queen Mary I of England—both her own words, and the historiography that developed around her. By exploring Mary as ruler, writer, and woman, the editors go far beyond remedying this famous historical figure being “woefully understudied.” While the co-winner of this prize surveys an increasingly well-established field, Shutte and Hower’s two volumes in many ways create, and re-create, the field of Marian studies. By focusing especially on textual representations—Mary in Writing and Writing Mary—the two volumes operate especially productively between the two disciplines of literature and history.


Best Article published in volume 17 of Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal


Matthew Mewhinney, “The Reader is Hooked: Ema Saikō’s Poems on The Tale of Gengi

Mewhinny’s article argues that the poems written by Ema Saikō in response to the historical Genji “generat[e] a feedback loop,” both responding to and amplifying the reader’s and poet’s feelings upon encountering the medieval narrative in prose and in contemporary visual media. Moving deftly between histories of nineteenth-century Japan, contemporary critical theory, and affect studies, Mewhinney both contextualizes the collection, and offers a case study for thinking about poetry as a means of both recording and generating affect in an intertextual encounter. Working across temporalities, texts, genres, and media, the article models the sensitive readings it also describes.