WSG member Miriam al Jamil reports from the recent BSECS conference.
WSG members make an increasingly strong showing at BSECS conferences, both as participants in our own panel and as speakers on others. This year’s conference took place in Oxford 4-6 Jan 2019 and the theme was ‘Islands and Isolation’, which inspired a broad and eclectic range of papers across a range of disciplines. Our panel was titled ‘Fallen Women, Missionary Wives and Castaways: Exploring Women’s Isolation in the Long Eighteenth Century’. It was organised by Carolyn Williams and chaired by Yvonne Noble.
Tabitha Kenlon’s paper was ‘Scold, Punish, Pity or Seduce? The Confused Rhetoric of Advice to Unmarried Women (1791)’. Readers of our book Exploring the Lives of Women, 1558-1837will be aware of Tabitha’s work on conduct manuals and her paper explored contradictions in an anonymous advice manual of 1791. Description of the process of seduction is combined with moralistic counselling of the young women at risk, characterised as victims who succumb to temptation. The language borders on the salacious as the reader is addressed directly as a fallen woman, her shame a ‘chronicle of male triumph’. The writer exhorts reform but is not convinced that a woman will ever be exonerated for her failure to anticipate the actions of her seducer. Tabitha interpreted ‘isolation’ as the social and moral wilderness into which the fallen woman was propelled.
Trudie Messent presented on a WSG panel for the first time. Her paper was titled ‘Yesterday I left my native land and have now gazed upon it for the last time’: Isolation viewed through the life writing of Missionary wives in the Sandwich Islands and New Zealand, 1819-1832’. Trudie examined both the harsh physical journey and the emotional one which young newly-married wives experienced as they adjusted to life on the other side of the globe. She suggested that the letters and descriptions written by her subjects had a cathartic effect in the absence of social contact that their new lives entailed. Trudie’s paper was accompanied by some beautiful slides, showing routes taken, portraits and scenes which enriched the descriptions and quotations in her paper.
Carolyn Williams’ paper ‘Ladies unus’d to such hardships: Women on Desert Islands in two Eighteenth-century Novels’ began with a witty admonition for the incompetence shown by such desert island dwellers as Ben Gunn and Robinson Crusoe who were unable to recognise the potential resources available to them on their islands, such as the fermenting grapes or sea salt which could be put to good use to supply yeast or enable cheese-making. The delicate languishing ladies in Penelope Aubin’sThe Strange Adventures of the Count de Vinevil and his Family (1721) were given short shrift in Carolyn’s discussion which highlighted the shortcomings of an upper-class life as preparation for survival on an island. Their practical working-class counterpoint was identified in Charles Dibdin’s Hannah Hewit; or, The Female Crusoe (1792) whose scientific and mechanical facility rendered her desert island sojourn a period of comfort and creative energy.
Other WSG members who gave papers at the conference included Gillian Williamson, Miriam Al Jamil, Brianna Robertson-Kirkland, our bursary winner Madeleine Pelling, and Judith Hawley who contributed her insights at a round table discussion on ‘#MeToo’. I am sure there were other members and friends at the conference. There were many familiar faces. Speakers Olivette Otele and Cynthia Wall mined their academic experience for thoughtful keynote talks, and a delightful concert of eighteenth-century songs by soprano Valeria Mignaco and guitarist Jelma van Amersfoort put us in a convivial mood for the conference dinner. Plans are already underway for next year’s conference which will be ‘Natural, Unnatural and Supernatural’ and we are sure WSG will have a strong presence again in 2020.
WSG member Helen Draper, with Dr Carol Jacobi of Tate, will be co-convening the session ‘In/visibility and influence: the impact of women artists and their work’ at the Association for Art History Annual Conference 2018.
The session’s themes are biography and reputation, legacy and longevity, and the artists include Artemisia Gentileschi, Elisabetta Sirani, Angelica
Kauffmann, Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal, Elizabeth Butler, Ethel Walker, Louise
Joplin, Isabel Rawsthorne, Frances Hodgkins (below), Vanessa Bell, Eva
Hesse, Lee Lozano, Anne Truitt, Anne Schille, Pauline Boty, Kristin Jones,
Paula Rego and Adriana Varejão, and Judy Chicago (filmed in conversation).
AAH 2018 takes places 5-7 April 2018 at the Courtauld Institute and King’s College London. For further information, including registration, please see the AAH website.
Last year the first Women, Money and Markets 1750-1850 conference was held at King’s College London. Co-organised by WSG member Emma Newport and Amy Murat, the conference was a great success (not least because it featured a WSG panel, ‘Material Girls’).
The conference organisers welcome submissions in the form of individual papers, panels and roundtable discussions on the following themes:
The varying practices of women associated with currency, global and/or domestic markets and marketability
Material practices associated with value, exchange and/or female creativity
Women as producers and/or consumers in the literary or other marketplaces (including, but not limited to, food, clothing, agriculture and raw materials)
Representations of women at work or women’s involvement in: Trade and industry / Professional services (e.g. law, finance, hospitality and the media) / Domestic service / The rural economy / The stock market and speculation
The place of women in the literary marketplace (past and present)
They particularly welcome cross-cultural considerations of the above issues.
Guide for submissions: Please send 300 word abstracts to the conference email address (email@example.com) plus a covering email outlining briefly your proposed format (individual paper, panel, roundtable, etc.). If you are submitting a proposal for a panel, please include an abstract for each paper (up to 300 words each). Please indicate if you would like your paper to be considered for a monograph to be published in conjunction with the conference.
WSG member Miriam al Jamil is giving a talk at 2.30pm on 10 February for the Johnson Society, on ‘Artist and Artisan in the European Magazine (1782-1826)’. Miriam is a doctoral researcher at Birkbeck College, studying eighteenth-century women and the Classical Canon of sculpture. In her research she looks at how women engaged with sculpture during this period when art academy training was not available to them, and turns an alternative lens on the Grand Tour.
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.