Women's Writing Before Woolf: A Social Reference/Margo Hendricks (2)

Margo Hendricks (2) edit

Margo Hendricks is a Professor Emerita in early modern studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz (Folger). Her pioneering work in premodern critical race studies (PCRS) has challenged scholars to re-think the ways ‘race’ and intersectionality appear in early modern texts, and scholarship’s role in perpetuating, and dismantling, imperialist ideologies.

Biography edit

Hendricks was born in 1948. In an interview on the Black Romance Podcast (Moody-Freeman), Hendricks recounts initially working in a post office, in banks and in the school district before pursuing higher education. Hendricks intended to study law but was persuaded by her Renaissance English lecturer to pursue early modern studies instead.

Hendricks completed postdoctoral research on gender, race, and intersectionality in Shakespeare and early modern culture. In 1994, Hendricks published, with co-editor Patricia Parker, Women, “Race” and Writing in the Early Modern Period was published, and in 1996, Hendricks released her pioneering essay on race in Shakespeare: “‘Obscured by Dreams’: Race, Empire, and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. In 1997, Hendricks organised an interdisciplinary research group at the University of California titled “Theorizing Race in Pre- and Early Modern Contexts” (Hendricks, “Coloring the Past” 366) and, in 1998, organised the forum “Race and Shakespeare Studies: Is There a Future?” (Hendricks, “Introduction” 19). She has given numerous keynote addresses, including at the 2019 “Race and Periodization Symposium” at Arizona State University.  

Hendricks has supplemented her academic work with historical romance fiction under the pseudonym Elysabeth Grace.    

Works edit

Women, “Race,” and Writing in the Early Modern Period is a landmark interdisciplinary work, bringing together essays by women scholars of diverse backgrounds to examine race and gender in early modern culture. The volume challenged, in Hendricks’ words (“Coloring the Past,” 368), a dominant “white-centric” academic “vision of premodern cultures,” by foregrounding race, stressing difference between groups of women, and considering the ways women writers were shaped by, and contributed to, “imperialist and domestic ideologies based on the distinctions of ‘race’ and social position” (Hendricks and Parker 4). Hendricks’ own contribution examines the ways gender, race, and class intersect in a “racialized discourse of civility” (Hendricks, “Civility” 227) in Aphra Behn’s The Widow Ranter.

Hendricks’ 1996 article “‘Obscured by Dreams’: Race, Empire and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” crystallised her analysis of ‘race’ in early modern culture. By attending to the shifting meanings of the term in Shakespeare’s plays, Hendricks sheds light on the racial discourses which emerge, and intersect with fears of “unregulated female sexuality” (58), in narratives of hybridity, boundary-crossing and invocations of colonial India in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Hendricks argues for scholars to “expand” their understanding of early modern race politics (43), replacing modern, bodily conceptions with an understanding that acknowledges its complexity in early modern discourse, as something “material” and yet “immaterial” (42).

In a recent article entitled “Coloring the Past, Considerations on Our Future: RaceB4Race,” Hendricks extends her keynote speech from the 2019 Race and Periodization Symposium to synthesise PCRS’ key impulses and tenets. These include the need to overcome the “academic gatekeeping” of periodisation, an attention to “deep intersectional analyses” to interrogate generalisations that “privilege whiteness” (379), “positional subjectivity” and “bidirectional gaze” in research (368) and meaningful acknowledgements of “pre-exist[ing]” work by “Black, Brown, and Indigenous scholars” (369). Hendricks also stresses the need to extend PCRS’ lens to Indigenous experiences and subjectivities (381).

Hendricks has published other articles in journals like Renaissance Drama, Shakespeare Studies, and Women’s Studies. She has also written several romantic novels as Elysabeth Grace, including the Daughters of Saria series, the Midsummer Sisters series and A World Apart series.  

Reception and Legacy edit

Hendricks has been praised as a trailblazer by her academic contemporaries. In 1994, Joyce Green MacDonald lauded Women, “Race,” and Writing as “as much a landmark collection in Renaissance studies as Rewriting the Renaissance” (991). Valerie Traub likewise praised the anthology as an “excellent collection” (247).

In an “(un)timely” review of the anthology in 2020, Brandi K. Adams praised the collection as a “guide” for “all research in early modern studies”. Both Adams and David Sterling Brown et al. (2) situate Hendricks’ work as foundational to later PCRS research. Adams cites #ShakeRace and special issues of Shakespeare Quarterly and the Journal of American Studies as part of this growth.

However, significant academic cohorts remain disengaged from PCRS more generally. Sterling Brown (5) notes research on domestic spheres remains “segregated” from PCRS and Adams likewise points out that the “urgent questions” raised by Hendricks remains “marginalised in the field at large.”

Nevertheless, Hendricks’ contribution to early modern studies remains significant. Alongside other PCRS scholars, Hendricks has provoked a dramatic shift in thinking about the nature and function of race in the early modern period and has paved the way for successive generations of scholars from diverse backgrounds to extend the field in ways that promote greater equality within the academy.

References and Further Reading edit

Adams, Brandi K. “‘A Harbinger of the Much More to Come’: an (Un)timely Review of Women, “Race,” & Writing in the Early Modern Period.” The Hare, vol. 5, no. 1, 2020. The Hare, thehareonline.com/article/%E2%80%98-harbinger-much-more-come%E2%80%99-untimely-review-women-%E2%80%9Crace%E2%80%9D-writing-early-modern-period.

Hendricks, Margo. “‘Obscured by Dreams’: Race, Empire, and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 47, no. 1, Spring 1996, pp. 37-61. https://www.proquest.com/docview/195868616

---. “Civility, Barbarism, and Aphra Behn’s The Widow Ranter.” Women, “Race,” and Writing in the Early Modern Period, edited by Margo Hendricks and Patricia Parker, Routledge, 1994, pp. 225-242.

---. “Coloring the Past, Considerations of Our Future: RaceB4Race.” New Literary History, vol. 52, no. 3/4, Summer/Autumn 2021, pp. 365-384. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/nlh.2021.0018.

---. “Introduction.” Shakespeare Studies, vol. 26, Jan. 1998, pp. 19-20. https://www.proquest.com/docview/222336221

Hendricks, Margo, and Patricia Parker, editors. Women, “Race,” and Writing in the Early Modern Period. Routledge, 1994.

“Margo Hendricks—Coloring the Past, Rewriting our Future: RaceB4Race.” Folger Shakespeare Library, Folger Shakespeare Library, accessed 10 Oct 2022, folger.edu/institute/scholarly-programs/race-periodization/margo-hendricks.

McDonald, Joyce Green. Review of Women, “Race,” and Writing in the Early Modern Period, edited by Margo Hendricks and Patricia Parker. Sixteenth Century Journal, vol. 25, no. 4, Winter 1994, pp. 990-991. JSTOR, doi:10.2307/2542328.

Moody-Freeman, Julie E. “Conversation with Margo Hendricks/Elysabeth Grace.” Journal of Popular Romance Studies, vol. 11, Special Issue: Black Romance, May 2022. jprstudies.org/2022/05/conversation-with-margo-hendricks-elysabeth-grace/.

Sterling Brown, David. “‘Hood Feminism’: Whiteness and Segregated (Premodern) Scholarly Discourse in the Post-Postracial Era.” Literature Compass, vol. 18, no. 10, Oct. 2021, pp. 1-15. doi:10.1111/lic3.12608.

Sterling Brown, David, et al. “Seeking the (In)Visible: Whiteness and Shakespeare Studies.” Shakespeare Studies, vol. 50, 2022, pp. 17-23. https://www.proquest.com/docview/2714942760 Traub, Valerie. Review of Women, “Race,” and Writing in the Early Modern Period, edited by Margo Hendricks and Patricia Parker. Shakespeare Studies, vol. 23, 1995, pp. 241-248. EBSCOhost, ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=2&sid=d158093a-0dd1-452a-badb-108b26313dd0%40redis.