Unfinished Conversations: Still Kissing the Rod #3

In 2005, Elizabeth Clarke and Margaret Kean held a conference at St Hilda’s College Oxford called “Still Kissing the Rod?” after the ground-breaking women’s writing anthology of 1988. They celebrated the achievements of the Perdita project, assessed the development of the field since a number of landmark publications in the 1980s and looked forward to possible future trends.

Early modern women’s writing as an area of critical inquiry has continued to develop and significant works have recently been published: The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Women’s Writing in English, edited by Danielle Clarke, Sarah C. E. Ross and Elizabeth Scott-Bauman (2022), and the online Palgrave Encyclopedia of Early Modern Women’s Writing in English, edited by Patricia Pender and Rosalind Smith (2023). This pair of publications provide a new perspective from which we might reassess the achievements, challenges and opportunities of the field.

Former Merton Professor of English Literature, David Norbrook, was a great early supporter of this research and general editor of OUP’s Collected Works of Lucy Hutchinson. It is fitting that ‘Unfinished Conversations: Still Kissing the Rod #3’ will take place in Merton’s T. S. Eliot Lecture Theatre from 4.00pm to 7.00pm on 30 January 2024.

The speakers will be Professor Rosalind Smith (ANU), Professor Sarah Ross (Victoria University of Wellington), Dr Elizabeth Scott Baumann (KCL) and Professor Danielle Clarke (TCD), with respondents Professor Virginia Cox (Trinity, Cambridge) Professor Ros Ballaster (Mansfield) and Professor Diane Purkiss (Keble).


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Session I: 4.00-5.00pm

Presentations: Ros Smith, Danielle Clarke. Responses: Ros Ballaster, Virginia Cox.

• What constitutes early modern women’s writing and what other kinds of writers, writing and approach does it connect to or exclude?

• What is the relationship of the field to wider studies in Renaissance literature and culture and to certain recent theoretical and methodological developments: new formalism, material history of the book, queer and trans studies, critical race studies, the green and blue humanities and digital humanities?

• How much do constructions of gender matter in our understanding of authorship, agency, reception and form, both in individual texts and in broader generic categories?

Session II: 5.15-6.45

Presentations: Sarah Ross, Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, Response: Diane Purkiss. Roundtable.

• To what extent might women writers be seen to have changed intellectual and literary histories in the early modern period, and how have these changes been acknowledged?

• Is the canon still a shaping force in the ways in which we value, research and teach writing by women?

• How do institutional biases and resources influence research into early modern women’s writing, taking into account factors such as a shrinking academic job market in literary studies; new institutional emphases on outreach, engagement and impact; and shifting national research funding environments?

• What are the new imperatives shaping the field? Possibilities include the need to think multilingually and transnationally; the opportunities provided by research at scale using large corpora and digital methods for collecting and visualising data; and ethical considerations of the long histories of violence, colonialism and exploitation that underwrite early modern texts.


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