CEMS at RSA Chicago 2024

CEMS at RSA Chicago 2024

by Centre for Early Modern Studies

CEMS sponsored three panels for the 2024 conference of the Renaissance Society of America, held on 21-23 March in Chicago, all of which drew strong crowds.  

“Early Modern Women and English Marginalia,” which ran over two sessions, was organised by Robert Wellington (ANU) and chaired by Rosalind Smith (ANU) and Julie Crawford (Columbia University), with Katherine Acheson (University of Waterloo) as panel respondent. In the first session, Vanessa Braganza (Harvard) argued that the Countess of Pembroke had an editorial role in the 1613 edition of Philip Sidney’s Arcadia and discussed how women’s editorship fits into our evolving understanding of networks of literary creation. Mihoko Suzuki (University of Miami) examined passages marked by Anne Clifford in her copy of Arcadia in 1651, which call attention to both positive and negative examples of the “arte of gouernement”, female sovereignty, and civil war and rebellion. Lori Humphrey Newcomb (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) discussed Frances Wolfreston’s (1607-77) book collecting, marginalia, and almanac writing as responses to the lived experience of England’s civil war in Staffordshire and Warwickshire. 

In session 2, Susan J. Wiseman (Birkbeck) examined non-elite women’s experience of books through factors including educational situations, motives to and evidence of literacy, evidence of ownership, buying and writing, and distinctions between well-off and poor, rural and urban. Rosalind Smith discussed how visual marginalia provide evidence of women’s roles as humanist readers, as calligraphers, as co-authors of the unstable, collaborative codex, and as creators of material that reimagines the visual and the verbal in new forms. Finally, Micheline White (Carleton University) considered annotations made by Mary Tudor in liturgical books that were imposed on readers/hearers by the state which reveal her evolving negotiations with state power as a committed conformist, an evasive conformist, and a monarch demanding conformity from others. 

CEMS’ other panel, “Reading Communal Responses to Crises through Objects in the Early Modern Period,” was organised by Rosalind Smith and chaired by Andrew R. Casper (Miami University). Tamsin Prideaux (University of Glasgow) examined the establishment of the community of Sephardic Jewish merchants in sixteenth-century Venice, arguing that food held a symbolic value that helped to define their new and precarious identity in the city. Holly Flora (Tulane University) considered how poverty is reflected in two illustrated manuscripts of Italian early Renaissance manuscripts of Francis’ legend published in the early fourteenth and mid-fifteenth centuries, arguing that the second copy may have been made in the context of the Franciscan Observant reform movements of the fifteenth century. Donna L. Sadler (Agnes Scott College) explored the iconography and formal treatment of the retable of a Flemish altarpiece dedicated to the Virgin in St. Germain l’Auxerrois in Paris, as a testament to the catholic piety of the French royal family who worshiped in the church. 

CEMS’ Una McIlvenna also presented in a separate session, “(Dangerous) Crowds in Renaissance Cities.” Una’s paper discussed song sellers’ and news singers’ use of portable oil paintings and explored the interpersonal interactions and the emotional experiences of the singer(s) and their crowds.