One of the aims of the WSG’s Commonplace Book, was to conduct interviews with some prominent academics who have been closely involved with WSG over the years. Late last year WSG member Sara Read sat down with Elaine Hobby, Professor of Seventeenth-Century Studies at Loughborough University, and this half hour audio is the result.
As some readers might know Elaine is a long-time associate of WSG who has encouraged her PhD students to join the group and give research papers at their seminars, and who recently gave a keynote on Aphra Behn at WSG’s 2015 workshop. She is a renowned scholar of seventeenth-century women’s writing, especially autobiographical and lesbian writing, as well as midwifery manuals, whose books include Virtue of Necessity: English Women’s Writing 1649-88 (1988) and an edition of Jane Sharp’s 1671 Midwives Book or the Whole Art of Midwifry Discovered(1999).
She is currently leading a major project to produce an edition of Aphra Behn’s works. Sara spoke with Elaine about her research interests, her experiences of an “embryonic” WSG, her early influences and her latest project. The conversation helps illustrate just how small a circle of people the feminist study of early modern women involved in the UK in 1987, and the changes that have transformed the field since.
Forget about the title of this exhibition, because the idea behind it is actually great. Curated by Jacqueline Riding, the Foundling Museum, London has a new exhibition exploring attitudes to love, desire and female “respectability” in the Georgian period through the paintings of the artist Joseph Highmore (1692-1780). Highmore was a successful painter whose art underwent a profound change thanks to his involvement with the new Foundling Hospital in the 1740s. Highmore’s work with the Foundling and his new paintings started a debate about women’s vulnerability to sexual assault and the Foundling’s exhibition is the first major assessment of Highmore’s work for many years.
The exhibition runs until 7 Jan 2018, and there are several events around the exhibition that might be of interest to WSG blog readers. There is a talk on 21 October by Hallie Rubenhold on Georgian courtesans and prostitutes, and a symposium on 20 November, which will also feature a tour of the exhibition. For further information and to find out how to get to the Foundling, see its website.
Membership of the Women’s Studies Group 1558-1837 is available to anyone and runs from September to September of each year. If you are a scholar of the early modern period and long eighteenth century, and interested in women’s history, writing, art, or music, and gender and labour, politics, economics, natural philosophy or material culture, amongst other topics, why not join?
Members can attend WSG’s annual seminar series (the next is in November), and pay a reduced price for its annual workshop, both of which take place at the Foundling Museum. They also enjoy benefits such as WSG’s invitation-only listserv, promotion of their scholarly activities on this website and our facebook and twitter accounts, and the chance to join WSG’s annual outing, which last year was to the Globe archives. The WSG is in the process of compiling a 30th anniversary celebratory anthology and has recently offered a £500 research bursary to its members too. WSG members have given public talks at the Foundling.
Annual subscription fees for those in the U.K. are £18.00 (waged) and £15.00 (student and unwaged), and for those overseas, £15.00 (waged) and £12.00 (student and unwaged). For further information, see here. Forms can be returned to WSG’s Treasurer by email or by post, or in person at WSG seminars and the workshop.
Last year, the Women’s Studies Group 1558-1837 offered its first ever bursary to an early career researcher, independent scholar or PhD student who was a member of the Group to “support research in any aspect of women’s studies in the period 1558-1837”. The bursary was very popular, we had many applications and so this year we are pleased to be able to offer it again, but this time to make two awards, the first of £500 and the second of £250. The money will be paid on presentation of receipts and the winners will be expected to give a paper at a WSG seminar the following year, or, if based abroad, write a report for the WSG website.
The grant may be awarded for a new or continuing interdisciplinary or single-discipline project. For further information about the bursary, and to apply, please download the application form. The deadline for applications is November 30th 2017. Applicants will be notified of the outcome by January 2018. For further information on membership, see here.
As regular readers of this blog will know, the WSG is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2017 (the date is a little bit hazy – it was so long ago! – but it is generally agreed that our panel at BSECS 1987 was our first meaningful action). As part of the celebrations, WSG has not only instituted a bursary, but is in the process of compiling and editing a volume intended to be a reflection of its members’ 30 years of research and activism. Edited by Carolyn Williams, Sara Read and Louise Duckling and with a working title of the Women’s Studies Group 1558-1837 Commonplace Book, it will comprise a mixture of short research articles, reminiscences, interviews and poems by members past and present. Those interested in the upcoming book can get a taste of it by listening to Elaine Hobby, Professor of Seventeenth-Century Studies at Loughborough University and a long-time associate of WSG, in conversation with Sara Read in a separate blog post later this month.
Commonplacing was a common knowledge-making practice during the early modern period whereby people would write short extracts or digests from their reading into books under topical headings. These could be poetry, prose, quotations, proverbs, letters and prayers, which the compiler could then reference and recombine. Books could be kept for pragmatic as well as recreational reasons. Men such as Francis Bacon and John Locke famously wrote about and kept commonplace books, but women kept them too, and in recent years much work has been done on a closely related genre, the recipe book, to which the whole household might contribute. Some thought the practice of commonplacing a cause for concern, because it would encourage superficial reading.
The commonplace book as a discursive practice arguably reached its peak during the early modern period but commonplacing is by its very nature also highly personal and has continued in various forms into the Romantic period and the present day. WSG’s Commonplace Book will be a printed rather than manuscript form, but it will reflect the collaborative, interdisciplinary, unruly, highly mobile forms of interaction and support WSG has encouraged over the years. We hope to see it published in 2018.