skip to primary navigationskip to content
 

Reading the Mother from Antiquity to Shakespeare: Critical Approaches to Maternity in Premodern Texts

6 July 2012 - 7 July 2012

King's College, Cambridge

The explosion of scholarship on motherhood in the last three decades has, at its basis, a general acceptance that the modern Western maternal ideal - the image of the loving, tender, full-time mother - was 'invented' in the 18th century, marking a distinct break from earlier constructions. Yet this occludes the fact that premodern motherhood was far from monolithic and was the object of intensive representation and contestation: from the classical world to medieval and early modern Europe, maternity was constructed through a wide variety of texts and contexts and for diverse social, political and aesthetic purposes. Recently, scholars have begun to examine some of these constructions in their rich historical and textual specificity, in the process raising important questions about genealogies of modern maternal discourses that start only from the Enlightenment period.

Reading the mother in early texts imposes particular demands and constraints, not faced by those working on later material, such as a dearth of maternal writers and voices, the significance of literary genres and rhetoric, different medical conceptions of the maternal body and reproduction, alternative configurations of family, kinship and political organization, limited historical documentation and contingencies of textual transmission. Under such conditions, what reading practices might we bring to bear on mothers and maternal tropes and imagery in these texts? Can a responsibility to historical context and generic and formalist concerns be combined with contemporary philosophies and theories of the maternal? This workshop aims to encourage dialogue between classicists, medievalists and Renaissance scholars on the critical problems and possibilities of reading motherhood in premodern texts.

Programme:

FRIDAY JULY 6th:

SALTMARSH ROOMS KING'S COLLEGE

1:00pm: Registration and coffee

2:00pm-4.30pm: Session 1

Miri Rubin (QMUL): Imagined Maternities: Text and Image from Medieval Europe

Liz McAvoy (Swansea): From Miles Christi to Motherhood of God: Julian of Norwich Rewrites the Language of the Anchorhold

Finn Sinclair (Edinburgh): TBA

7.00 for 7.30pm: Dinner, Saltmarsh Rooms, King's College

SATURDAY JULY 7th: G21, FACULTY OF CLASSICS, CAMBRIDGE (*note change of venue from previous day*)

9.30am-11.00: Session 2

Beatrice Priest (Cambridge): Mary on Dante's Mount Purgatory: Young Mother or Virtuous Exemplar?

Peggy McCracken (Michigan): Nursing Animals: Intimacy, Contagion, and Maternity in Medieval Narratives.

11.00: Coffee and tea

11:30am: Session 3

Angeliki Tzanetou (Urbana-Champaign): Civic Motherhood and Athenian Tragedy

Ellen Oliensis (Classics, UC Berkeley): Mothers in Ovid's Amores

1:00-2:00pm: Lunch, SALTMARSH ROOMS, KING'S COLLEGE

2.00-4.00pm: Session 4, (G21, FACULTY OF CLASSICS)

Chris Laoutaris (UCL): Demonic Knowledge: Maternity and the Archaeologies of Witchcraft in Early Modern England

Kathryn Moncrief (Washington): "Then let them anatomize Regan": The Reproductive Body, Performance, and King Lear

Concluding comments

There is no conference fee and the conference is open to all members of the Faculty. (Attendance at conference dinner can be booked for a reasonable price, reduced for graduates.) For more details, please contact Mairéad McAuley (mm526@cam.ac.uk)

RSS Feed Latest news

Postgraduate Open Day Saturday 18 November 2017

Sep 22, 2017

Details of the 2017 Faculty of Classics Postgraduate Open Day are now available online:

Major archaeological discovery near Orchomenos in Boeotia, central Greece

Sep 12, 2017

A monumental Mycenaean rock-cut chamber tomb came to light this summer at Prosilio near Orchomenos in Boeotia, central Greece, during the excavations conducted there by the Ministry of Culture & Sports of Greece/Ephorate of Antiquities of Boeotia and of the British School at Athens/University of Cambridge

Interamna Lirenas goes LIVE!

Aug 21, 2017

Follow the students of the Faculty of Classics as they excavate the Roman theatre at Interamna Lirenas.

Roman Britain

Aug 07, 2017

Faculty statement concerning ethnic diversity in Roman Britain

View all news