Workshop Ideas are posted on this page for those who are looking for co-organizers.

Agency and Physical Action

I would welcome a collaborator who is interested in crafting a workshop proposal about early modern women’s agency through literal physical actions such as dance, travel, and religious or secular rituals. My hope is that we could explore the way early modern discourses of intentional movement through space represent gender and/or racialized others. How was gendered agency negotiated through learned bodily disciplines and choreographies such as masque dancing, witches’ “sabbaths,” Protestant vs. Catholic spiritual practices, seasonal festivities, and African and Amerindian dances and rituals described in European travel narratives? Another fruitful aspect of this topic might also emerge from examples of broken or unsuccessful rituals, where an expected order, hierarchized procession, kinetic social pattern, or sequence like court protocol is disrupted in significant ways. My background is in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English literature, but this topic lends itself to generic, cultural, and interdisciplinary diversity beyond that scope.

Please contact: Elisa Oh, Associate Professor of English
Howard University

Women and the Law in Early Modern Europe

Earlier histories of women’s criminality or sexuality tended to focus primarily on the punitive and disciplinary aspects of early modern courts. However, more recent scholarship has focused on how the same institutions dedicated to upholding patriarchal mandate within the family and the state also provided women with a potentially powerful means to establish their claims on property, paternity, or reputation. Drawing upon the tools of social and cultural history, this workshop will examine how women engaged with and used legal mechanisms and legal spaces in sixteenth and seventeenth-century Europe, whether as litigants, witnesses, or the accused. The focus will be largely methodological, and seek to incorporate the tools of literary theory in regards to reading the performances or fictions through which gendered categories were produced and contested in the space of the courtroom. I am approaching these questions from the perspective of masculinity and marriage litigation in early modern France, but I welcome contributors from other geographic areas and interests, especially those who study women’s crime and criminality.

Please contact: Anna Young, Ph.D. Candidate
Vanderbilt University

The Making of Knowledge: Early Modern Women and Scientific Discourse

The early modern period transformed European and American discourses of knowledge and witnessed the advent of the modern scientific method. Yet women’s participation in these discourses has often gone unacknowledged. I am seeking collaborators to address the topic of how early modern women engaged with discourses of knowledge (or the question of how we know) on both a local and a global scale – from the specifics of their practice to the practicalities of their participation. Under the categories of Confrontation and Collectivity, this panel will consider both how these women worked to engage in existing networks of knowledge, and how they created their own; and how their work resisted pervasive ideas of femininity. At the same time, it will ask how women’s participation in scientific discourse outside of official channels confounds accepted ideas of modern disciplinary boundaries.

My own approach to the topic is grounded in the literature and intellectual history of the Hispanic World. I would welcome collaborators from across the disciplines to contribute other geographical and linguistic perspectives.

Please contact: Alice Brooke, Lecturer in Spanish
Wadham College, University of Oxford

Accounting for Women: Economic Collaborations, Networks, and Alliances

Within the topic of Collectivity, I would like to work with others interested in exploring women’s agency and actions in professional collaborations or alliances. Such collaborations might include women’s roles in family businesses, but also participation in guilds, trades, or professions; experiences as apprentices; or their inclusion—whether formally or informally—in other sorts of economic networks. We might interrogate the significance of women’s economic contributions as well as their advantages/disadvantages relative to men of different/similar social degree. I would engage the topic from the field of early modern English studies, attending to wives and daughters in the business of theater in 16th- and 17th-century England, with particular focus on the familial ambitions of Agnes Henslowe and Joan Alleyn in relation to the Rose Theatre. Ideally, the workshop would bring together a range of scholarly perspectives including those grounded in the visual arts, history, as well as literature from various times and geographic origins.

Please contact: Theresa Kemp, Professor of Critical Studies in English
University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire

Networks, Destruction, and Contested Categorization Beyond the Human Realm

What counts—in early modern art, literature, historical documents, or other texts—as “human,” “nonhuman,” “nature,” or “culture”? How are these categories defined with respect to gender, race, and class? What kinds of collaborations between humans and the world, or between non-human elements or actors, do early modern texts present or disallow? What role does human or nonhuman violence play in these depictions? Are particular genres engaged more deeply with these questions? For example, why do some romances frame the destruction of or violent conflict with a complexly gendered natural world as necessary for the hero’s quest or personal growth? I am approaching these questions from the perspective of early modern English literary studies, and eagerly anticipate putting my examples—primarily from Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, Wroth’s Urania, or Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko—in conversation with examples and ideas from art, history, politics, other literary traditions, or other disciplines.

Please contact: Dr. Dyani Johns Taff, English Department Lecturer
Ithaca College

Portraits: Identity, Spaces, Social networks, Alliances

Under the rubric Collectivity, I would like to collaborate with others interested in “portraits,” in whatever medium or form (e.g. symbolic, literary, architectural, auto/biographical). I am an art historian, but would hope to find scholars from other disciplinary bases who are thinking about women’s particular investment in portraits: not just as makers (although women were frequently portrait painters) but also in how portraits established or challenged identities, activated spaces, circulated in familial and economic networks, and functioned in forging alliances.

Please contact: Sheila ffolliott,

Pregnancy and Childbirth: Preparation and Participation

Participants for a panel to respond to the question of ‘how?’ proposed in the call for papers by asking how women prepared for and participated in childbirth, pregnancy, and newborn care. In particular, the panel would address the conference themes of collectivity (familial networks, collaboration, alliances, and perhaps even objects in circulation), asking how women assisted one another in the birth process, in preparations for birth, and in care of newborns. Issues related to breastfeeding and wetnursing could also be considered.

I will address the topic from the perspective of Spain, based on archival research conducted on household manuals and recipe books from the 16th-17th century, female-authored poetry, and midwifery manuals.

Please contact: Dr. Emily Kuffner, Visiting Assistant Professor of Hispanic Studies,
College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University