Mary Learner
Doctoral, Graduate Student


Pre-Dissertation Exploration Award

Material Matters: Gender, Politics, and Literature of the English Civil War

Mary Learner will travel to England to research women's material interventions in the English Civil War by analyzing objects, manuscripts, and printed ephemera for their political resonances and networks of knowledge, and seeks to understand how these interventions correspond to literary representations. Materials such as letters, embroidery, gardens, and recipes were all cites of female creation, and reveal how women responded to their disordered environment. My central question is: what were women's material responses to the political, social, and environmental upheaval during and following the English Civil War? Although literary and history scholars have investigated women's writing about politics of seventeenth century England, the materials that reveal their investment--letters, embroidery, gardens, and recipes--have not received adequate attention. Studying these objects alongside their presence as metaphors in poetry or props in drama enables a more complete vision of women's responses to the civil wars, interregnum, and restoration of Charles II, and how these correspond to larger conversations occurring across the continent about non-monarchical forms of government. My approach relies on archival research and literary interpretation in relation to these objects, and considers how women's writing engages in political debates through materials during this tumultuous period. The bulk of my sources were created, written, or published between 1640-1670, and I will be reading works by both women and men to substantiate my claims about women's material interventions. This project would develop upon research that has reoriented history to include women's voices, and my emphasis on women's textualities considered broadly includes women forgotten by narratives in scholarship, and is essential to understand how they responded to the disordered atmosphere of their time.


United Kingdom