Programme de l’atelier “Women Self-Fashioning Through Death in Early Modern England”, congrès de la Renaissance Society of America, 1er avril 2022

Organizer: Aurélie Griffin (Sorbonne Nouvelle)

Chair: Ramona Wray (Queen’s University Belfast)

Respondent: Christine Sukic (Université de Reims-Champagne-Ardenne)

A / Eva Lauenstein (Birkbeck College): ‘“Things new and old”: Anne Clifford and the Building of Godly Communities’

This paper argues that Clifford’s commemorative and charitable buildings served to shape public and private worship according to her own beliefs and the practices of the Elizabethan Liturgy. Her network of building projects in the Cumbrian landscape uses the plastic and literary arts to mend the rupture in lineal descent created by her father’s will and her temporary exclusion from the Clifford succession. However, they also disclose her preoccupation with fissures in the religious, social and political fabric of the country following the English Civil War. Churches, tombs and almshouses stitch together Clifford’s ownership of titles and places, but also reassemble an idealised English society that worshipped in ostensible unity. They relate how Clifford used mortality to engage in genealogical and historical writing that intentionally collapse the boundaries between her body and a medieval and the Elizabethan past to generate narratives of an English sense of collective selfhood.

B/ Anne-Marie Miller-Blaise (Sorbonne Nouvelle): ‘Anne Bacon Drury’s Self Effacing Monuments’

Little is known of Anne Bacon Drury in comparison to her male relatives and acquaintances. She is more often remembered as one of John Donne’s patrons and the mother of the virginal Elizabeth Drury, commemorated in the poet’s two monumental elegies, the first and second ‘Anniversaries’, those ‘Carkas verses’ which explore the world’s dissolution on the occasion of the girl’s death. By looking more closely at the ‘mute’ monuments that Anne Bacon Drury devised – her painted cabinet and her own tombstone (both of which materialize and perform acts of neo-Stoic self-effacement) – this paper seeks not only to shed light on active female engagement in funerary art but also to interrogate broader notions of female agency and authorship.  

C/ Emma Bartel (Sorbonne Université) : ‘“Going to Take a Turn with Death”: Becoming the Pious Mary Rich, Countess of Warwick (1625-1678) 

Protestant ars moriendi literature commonly exhorted believers to regularly turn their thoughts to their own death and the future joys of heaven. “Going to take a turn with death” was the phrase used by Mary Rich to describe her lengthy walks during which she would meditate on death. In practice, a wide variety of both individual and communal devotional practices were aimed at daily preparation for death. Rich’s manuscripts provide minute details of different ephemeral and daily devotional practices such as occasional and heavenly meditation, communal prayer and pious conversation. These provide rare insight into how works on the Art of Dying were actually performed. I will discuss how these devotional practices were used by Rich to fashion her identity as an exemplary and skilled advocate of the Protestant good death and how this reputation provided her with the authority to exert an influential, more pastoral role, that of a spiritual guide to help others prepare for death. 

D/ Aurélie Griffin (Sorbonne Nouvelle): ‘Beyond Martyrdom in The Tragedy of Mariam’ 

It has become customary for critics to extol the eponymous heroine of The Tragedy of Mariam as an early martyr. But if her moral resolve before her execution indeed presents her as a protofeminist model of behaviour in the face of adversity, one should not forget that her death was brought about by the incessant machinations of her sister-in-law, Salome, that she faces her other rival, Herod’s first wife Doris, immediately before her death, and can hardly rely on her own mother’s support. In this paper, I would like to reexamine Mariam’s death to show that the ennobling discourse of martyrdom is constantly underpinned by other women’s efforts, providing an ironic backdrop that complicates protofeminist readings of the play. Cary thus represents the limitations to women’s agency in a patriarchal society, where their only option to influence life is to be involved in death – their own or another’s. 

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