Women's Writing Before Woolf: A Social Reference/Jane Stevenson

Jane Stevenson edit

Jane Stevenson is a scholar, writer, and researcher based in the United Kingdom. She is a Senior Research Fellow at Campion Hall, University of Oxford where she specialises in literature and history, particularly related to Latin and the classics, women’s history, social recusants, and British transnational writers.

She has published numerous articles, as well as producing six books of scholarship on subjects from early modern women’s poetry to the presence of a Baroque mindset in interwar European culture. Stevenson is also an accomplished fiction author.

Early Life edit

Born in London on the 12th of February 1959, Steven was brought up between London, Beijing, and Bonn[1]. Her education at Newnham College of University of Cambridge between the years 1978-1985 saw her major in Anglo-Saxon studies, Norse studies, and Celtic / English studies.

She went on to complete a PHD at Cambridge in early medieval vernacular and Latin literature. Her first research position post-graduation was as a Junior Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge in 1985, where she focused primarily on Anglo-Latin scholarship and edited a lost work by Archbishop Theodore of Tarsus[2].

Career edit

Stevenson held a position as Junior Fellow at the University of Cambridge in 1988. She went on to become a Lecturer in History at the University of Sheffield, where she stayed for seven years. Afterwards, she took up a position as Interdisciplinary Research Fellow at the University of Warwick, where she lectured in classical studies and translation studies. During this time, Stevenson began her career as a literary novelist, publishing her first work Several Depictions (1999) with publishing firm Jonathon Cape.

In 2007, Stevenson became the Regius Professor of Humanity at the University of Aberdeen, where her teaching and research responsibilities focused on the history of books, literacy, and women’s writing practices. After ten years in Aberdeen, Stevenson became Senior Research Fellow at Campion Hall, University of Oxford, where she remains to this day[2].

Specialisations edit

Stevenson’s academic specialisations range from ancient Greek prose to early 20th century culture. She has three areas of interests, two which pertain to the early middle ages, and the third which is concerned with the Renaissance and early modern periods, unified by a general interest in Latin poetry by women. Stevenson stated: “In the early period, I have also worked on issues to do with Christianisation and literacy (principally with respect to Ireland and Anglo-Saxon England), and in the later period, I have some subsidiary concerns such as court and élite culture more generally[3].”

Research edit

Stevenson’s wide range of research interests have resulted in a body of scholarship that both surveys broadly and draws attention to neglected or periphery cultures.

In 2007, Stevenson published "Still Kissing the Rod?," a research article that addressed early modern women's writing practices in an intercultural context. In this research, Stevenson countered existing perceptions that women writers were confined to their surrounding context, demonstrating that they were aware of and connected to a larger network of European women writers[4].

Stevenson has contributed important knowledge of Scottish women's writing practices. Her article “Reading, Writing and Gender in Early Modern Scotland (2012),” identifies obstructions to female literacy and authorship in early modern Scottish society, opposing suppositions that the Scottish literary ecosystem functioned similarly to Britain’s, and addressing contributing factors to the lack of Scottish early modern women writing. Stevenson correlates the different circumstances of production in the two writing cultures to the conditions needed to support early modern women writing practices, demonstrating the impact that context has on cultural production[5].

Most recently, Stevenson published "Centres and Peripheries: Early-Modern British Writers in a European Context (2020),” which built upon her previous examinations of interconnected writing networks. Stevenson’s focus on early modern recusant William Blundell revealed that, counter to the prevailing narrative of English language, writing, and publishing as dominant in the early modern period, an alternative network of supranational knowledge and publishing in pan-European languages existed. She linked this ecosystem of early modern knowledge to the English Short Catalogue Title, "one of the most important aids to early-modern scholarship," showing how they unwittingly neglect the practices of British authors who wrote in foreign languages by focusing solely on English writings, consequently upholding a narrative of the English language as the dominant centre of early modern knowledge. This is a fascinating piece of research that demonstrates how Stevenson’s interest in recusants has led to a deeper understanding of early modern literary networks and intellectual culture, and simultaneously reveals the contemporary importance of these networks for the discipline of early modern studies[6].

Books edit

Stevenson is the author of several scholarly books ranging early modern writing practices and cultural history.

Her Early Modern Women Poets (2001) was a comprehensive anthology surveying the vast practices and productions of early modern women writers: “the principal text for teaching early modern women's poetry[7].”

Baroque Between the Wars (2018) deviates from Stevenson primary research period to examine early 20th century culture, arguing for the presence of modern baroque and neo-classical mindsets in modernist art.[8]

Her most recent historical non-fiction text, The Light of Italy: The Light and Times of Federico De Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino (2021)[9] explores the history of a small and secluded Italian town, Urbino, ruled by the influential Federico de Montefeltro who “assembled a court regarded by many as representing a high point of Renaissance culture.”[10] Here, Stevenson unifies her interest of early modern culture with periphery communities, challenging the emphasis on major cities as the exclusive centres of dominant culture and revealing the rich diversity of the early modern landscape.  

Fiction edit

Stevenson is a fiction writer, publishing several novels between 1999 and 2005. Her fiction relates to her research, exploring themes of womanhood, culture, history, and academia, and Stevenson posits her literary career as primarily “concerned with the interaction of the past with the present.”[3]

Stevenson’s fiction makes it evident that she enjoys finding the humanity in the historical periods of her research, as her books bring to life relationships, social dynamics, and daily realities that both reflect and revitalise the context within which they’re situated. She is represented by RCW Literary Agency.

Criticism edit

Stevenson has been criticised for her unorthodox writing style. Her book Edward Burra: Twentieth Century Eye (2007)[11] drew criticism for its descriptive liberties and lack of academic style[12], no doubt a result of her dual scholarly and creative writing practices. However, the critic concludes that this unkosher approach to biographing Edward Burra, though “difficult to read,” shows “the world in which Burra produced his strange pictures[12].”

Further Reading edit

To gain more understanding into Stevenson’s research and scholarship, the following texts comprise some of her important contributions:

- Stevenson, Jane. "Women and Classical Education in the Early Modern Period." Pedagogy and Power: Rhetorics of Classical Learning. Ed. Yun Lee Too and Niall Livingstone. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998, pp. 83-109.

- Stevenson, Jane. Women Latin Poets: Language, Gender, and Authority from Antiquity to the Eighteenth Century, Oxford Academic, 2005. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198185024.001.0001, accessed 21 Oct. 2022.

- Stevenson, Jane. "The Court Culture of England Under Elizabeth 1." Princes and Princely Culture 1450-1650, Volume 2, BRILL, 2005. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.newcastle.edu.au/lib/newcastle/detail.action?docID=280718.

- Stevenson, Jane. Baroque between the Wars: Alternative Style in the Arts, 1918-1939, Oxford, 2018. Oxford Academic, Doi: https://doi-org.ezproxy.newcastle.edu.au/10.1093/oso/9780198808770.001.0001. Accessed: 14 Oct 2022.

- Stevenson, Jane. The Light of Italy: The Light and Times of Federico De Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, United Kingdom, Head of Zeus, 2021

References edit

  1. RCW Literary Agency Authors, “Jane Stevenson.”  https://www.rcwlitagency.com/authors/stevenson-jane/
  2. a b LinkedIn, “Jane Stevenson,” https://www.linkedin.com/in/jane-stevenson-66862376/?originalSubdomain=uk
  3. a b The Conversation, Jane Stevenson, “Profile,” 2016, https://theconversation.com/profiles/jane-stevenson-305260
  4. Stevenson, Jane. "Still Kissing the Rod? Whither Next?" Women's Writing: The Elizabethan to Victorian Period, Vol. 14, No. 2, 2007, pp. 290-305. Taylor and Francis Online, Doi: 10.1080/09699080701314790
  5. Stevenson, Jane. "Reading, Writing and Gender in Early Modern Scotland." The Seventeenth Century, Vol. 27, No. 3, 2012, pp. 335-374. ProQuest, http://ezproxy.newcastle.edu.au/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/reading-writing-gender-early-modern-scotland/docview/1459729024/se-2.
  6. Stevenson, Jane. "Centres and Peripheries: Early-Modern British Writers in a European Context." Library, Vol. 21, No. 2, 2020, pp. 157-191. Oxford Academic, Doi: https://doi-org.ezproxy.newcastle.edu.au/10.1093/library/21.2.157
  7. Reeves, Margaret. "Reading Early Modern Women." University of Toronto Quarterly, Vol. 75, No. 4, 2006, pp. 979-983.  
  8. Stevenson, Jane. Baroque between the Wars: Alternative Style in the Arts, 1918-1939, Oxford, 2018. Oxford Academic, Doi: https://doi-org.ezproxy.newcastle.edu.au/10.1093/oso/9780198808770.001.0001. Accessed: 14 Oct 2022.
  9. Stevenson, Jane. The Light of Italy: The Light and Times of Federico De Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, United Kingdom, Head of Zeus, 2021
  10. Campion Hall, University of Oxford, News, 14.10.21 “Senior Research Fellow Prof Jane Stevenson Publishes New Book,” Campion Hall, University of Oxford Website. https://www.campion.ox.ac.uk/news/senior-research-fellow-prof-jane-stevenson-publishes-new-book
  11. Stevenson, Jane. Edward Burra: Twentieth Century Eye. Jonathon Cape, 2007.
  12. a b Clark, Adrian. “Review- Edward Burra: Twentieth-Century Eye by Jane Stevenson,” The British Art Journal, Vol. 9, No. 1, Spring 2008, pp. 86-87. JSTOR, https://www.jstor.org/stable/41614802. Accessed: 16-10-2022 00:41 UTC