‘Of Female Poets who had names of old’
Reputation, Reception and the Circulation of Early Modern Women’s Writing
Fimmtudaginn 23. nóvember 2017 kl. 16.30
This paper emerges from the research of the team working on the RECIRC project (The Reception and Circulation of Early Modern Women’s Writing, 1550-1700), funded by the European Research Council (2014-2019) and led by Marie-Louise Coolahan. The RECIRC project is essentially a study of intellectual impact. Its fundamental research questions include: Which women were read? How, where, and by whom were they read? RECIRC is structured around four interlinking ‘work packages’, each of which takes a specific entry point in order to amass quantitative data relating to the reception and circulation of women’s writing between 1550 and 1700. The first of these posits the Catholic religious orders as transnational channels by which devotional and polemical texts were translated and transmitted; it investigates the martyrologies and bibliographies of the various religious orders, as large-scale compendia of texts that included female-authored works. The second ‘work package’ examines scientific correspondence networks; the wealth of data to be found in the scriptorium operated through Samuel Hartlib has meant we have focused specifically on this circle. The third approach aims to rebalance the bias of digitization projects toward print culture by harvesting data from early modern manuscripts. It does so by focusing solely on the category of the manuscript miscellany (a compilation of miscellaneous materials) in order to assess the contexts for excerpting and transcribing women’s writing. It differs from the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO) initiative, which is a full-text transcription project, in its harvesting and structuring of data relating specifically to reception and circulation. The fourth RECIRC approach is concerned with early modern library catalogues; it captures data on the proportion of female-authored items in order to facilitate statistical analysis relating to the gendering of such book collections.
RECIRC, then, is testing these methodological approaches for understanding the ‘big picture’ of textual transmission, reception and circulation of women’s writing in the English-speaking world during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This includes writers who were read in Ireland and Britain as well as authors born and resident in Anglophone countries The focus on women’s writing enables investigation of the routes to impact that were exploited by early modern women, as well as of the ways gender inflected the construction of writerly reputation. It also delimits the corpus, facilitating our testing of methodologies for studying the circulation of non-elite, non-canonical writing in the period.
Marie-Louise Coolahan is Professor of English at the National University of Ireland, Galway. She is the author of Women, Writing, and Language in Early Modern Ireland (Oxford University Press, 2010). She is currently Principal Investigator of the ERC-funded project, RECIRC: The Reception and Circulation of Early Modern Women’s Writing, 1550-1700 (www.recirc.nuigalway.ie).
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