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Sofonisba Anguissola, The Chess Game (1555)

This two-day interdisciplinary symposium invites scholars to examine early modern women’s agency from a transnational perspective. Conversations about women’s agency continue to ripple across the world, from new, passionate campaigns in Mexico and Poland that have fought to address feminicide and sexual violence, to the Women’s Marches, which have annually inspired global response. Now, we turn with fresh urgency to early modern women’s participation in intellectual and literary cultures that bridged regional, national, and transnational divides.

Early modern women’s studies have brought to light women who were profoundly engaged with international literary, philosophical, and political movements. These extraordinary women are as various as the ‘Mother of the Renaissance’, princess, political figure and writer during the Querelle des femmes, Marguerite de Navarre; renowned warrior and ruler of Gondwana, Rani Durgavati; resident of the Mughal Empire and the alleged inspiration behind John Dryden’s Amboyna, Mariam Khan; polymath and international patron, Queen Christina of Sweden; passionate advocate of women’s educational and social equality, Mary Wollstonecraft. Collaboration across disciplinary, linguistic and national boundaries will offer fresh ways of understanding the multifaceted ways women’s agency was experienced and imagined in the period c.1450-1790. 

The transnational and interdisciplinary focus of this symposium will foster new discussions about questions such as, what did a woman’s agency at this time look like and how was it expressed in different spaces and mediums? How does situating women in an international network alter our reading of female-authored texts and/or representations of women? What practical mechanisms enabled and thwarted women to correspond with other men and women across the globe? In what ways did both men and women conceive of women’s place on the global stage and does this conception allow us to complicate our own understandings of agency today? 

The keynote speaker will be Professor Merry Wiesner-Hanks, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.

This symposium will take place online via Zoom and will be free to attend. It is generously funded by the AHRC-TORCH Graduate Fund, as part of The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH).

For more information, please see Call for Papers.

Recordings of the keynote paper and roundtable discussion are available via this website.

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