Independent historian and WSG member Valerie Schutte and her co-author Sarah Duncan have edited a new collection of essays on Queen Mary I for the 500th anniversary of her birth in 1516. Entitled The Birth of a Queen, the collection reflects on Mary’s life, tumultuous reign, death and “cultural afterlife”.
Valerie has spoken at previous WSG seminars and her book Mary I and the Art of Book Dedications was also published by Palgrave in its Queenship and Power series earlier this year. She’ll be talking about aspects of her work in the next WSG seminar, at the Foundling Museum on 19th November 2016, along with Emma Newport on Sarah Sophia Banks and Chrisy Dennis on Mary Robinson.
WSG has had a close association with the journal Women’s Writing since its early days. The Editor, Marie Mulvey-Roberts, was a member of WSG, and she encouraged other members to contribute papers given at our Saturday sessions or annual one-day workshop. In 2010 some of us co-edited a special issue in honour of Mary Waldron, an active committee member. Now current and former WSG members are contributors to a special issue in honour of Professor Janet Todd, the pioneering scholar of Aphra Behn, Mary Wollstonecraft and Jane Austen, and a Founding (now Consultant) Editor of WW. The celebration took the form of an interview by Marie of her distinguished colleague in an imposing hall at Mansfield College, Oxford. Ros Ballaster, co-editor of the issue and fellow WSG member, hosted the event which included a reception and a banquet dinner.
Marie questioned Janet about her life and her extensive travelling both as a child and during her academic career. Janet spoke of the patronising attitudes towards women when she was a student at Cambridge University, and women were confined to three female undergraduate colleges. She told of the impossibility of choosing Mary Wollstonecraft as a PhD subject, so she wrote instead on John Clare. The only feminist theory being studied when she began her career was that of the French feminists, Irigaray, Kristeva and Cixous. Todd bravely defended Anglo-American “socio-historical” feminist criticism and also challenged the jargon of New Historicism. A pioneer in the study of women writers, Todd founded a journal Women and Literature which can be considered a forerunner to Women’s Writing.
She described the pressure under which she published her Dictionary of British and American Women Writers 1660-1800, the immense and significant project she conceived and researched extensively by herself, and she spoke self-effacingly of the number of times she had read ‘erroneously mentioned by Janet Todd’ in references to the women covered in her Dictionary. In a question about role-models she described sharing a platform with Germaine Greer who towered above her in height and whose confidence she admired. Although female networks were an important part of her own research, and Marilyn Butler was a close friend, no network of women academics existed to provide support for Janet early in her career, particularly as she was working in the USA, Ghana, Bermuda and Puerto Rica. Finally, she spoke of her recent first venture at writing fiction, and of the lack of pressure to publish at the beginning of her career. Marie ended by reminding us of the impressive publication list of this inspiring academic, including the multi-volume editions of the works of Behn, Wollstonecraft and Austen.
Want to read more? The special issue of Women’s Writing is available here, with a subscription. Ros Ballaster tweets as @BallasterRos.
Just a reminder that on 11 June at Senate House, University of London, the Women’s Studies Group annual workshop takes place and the theme this year is “Women and the Bible”.
Emma Major of the University of York is giving the keynote on Anna Letitia Barbauld, dissent and democracy during the age of revolution. To get an idea of Emma’s work, which is funded by the British Academy, you can watch this video:
WSG workshops always include a morning keynote followed by an afternoon of discussion in which all the attendees give 5-minute presentations on any research within the WSG time period relevant to the workshop theme. There is still time to register, and attendees are encouraged to bring material on any of the following topics:
All attendees are invited to bring a 5-minute presentation, from any discipline and period covered by the group, exploring any of the following themes:
Gender, the public and the private * Women, publication and anonymity * Women and religion * Women, violence and revolution * Gender and genre * Women and the nation * Preaching women * Women and the Bible * Dissent
After the seminar the WSG blog had a chance to catch up with Valerie about her various projects:
“I have several projects I am working on that are of interest to the WSG, and I can’t wait to come to another seminar to talk about them. Many still relate to Queen Mary I. I actually mentioned these at the WSG meeting and got lots of positive feedback. I plan on writing an article titled “Mary in Miniature.” I frequently get asked if any images are connected to the book dedications to Mary. Generally the answer is no. Mary’s books and manuscripts tend not to be illuminated or have gorgeous decoration. In “Mary in Miniature,” I am going to address this lack of images as well as address the few manuscript images of Mary that do actually exist. For my other project on Mary I am planning an essay on her relationship with Hampton Court Palace. This is a palace that she chose to use and visit for the most important personal occasions in her reign, such as her honeymoon and her first childbirth. I am going to address why she chose this palace and how she used it as Queen.
My next major project is one that I mentioned at the WSG meeting and was highly encouraged to pursue. In my first monograph, I spent a chapter recreating the personal library of Queen Mary I. It was some of my most rewarding and enjoyable research. Rather than undertaking a monograph on only one woman’s library and books dedicated to her, I have decided to write one where each chapter is about one woman related to or connected with Queen Mary I, such as Jane Dormer. Each chapter will cover a different woman and her books. Once I have around five or seven women and have recovered their literary history, I will put them together in a monograph along with an introduction and conclusion that tie the patterns of their libraries, book collections, and dedications together. This will allow me to draw conclusions about Mary’s literary influence at court.”
We’re looking forward to hearing further details of Valerie’s work as these projects progress. You can see Valerie’s webpage for further details and relevant cfps. Along with her Unexpected Heirs in Modern Europe and Shakespeare’s Queens (co-edited with Kavita Mudan Finn) collections, it looks like Valerie is going to be extremely busy in 2016.