Women's Writing Before Woolf: A Social Reference/ Cristina Malcolmson

Cristina Malcolmson (1950-2020) edit

Biography: edit

Cristina Malcolmson was born on May 26 1950 and died on July 16 2020 (AtHutchins). Very little information is available online about her early life. More becomes available once she begins her academic career at the University of California, Berkley, beginning with an undergraduate degree in English in 1973. She went on to get a PhD in English from Berkley in 1983 (Schoenfeldt, 1) where she focussed on the work of early modern British metaphysical poet, George Herbert (1593-1632).

Her career in the university sector began with her becoming an instructor at Berkley (Freedman) and then went on to teach as an assistant professor at Reed College and Yale University (Freedman), teaching Renaissance English literature. She settled at Bates College, in Maine, serving as assistant, associate and professor. She also was Chair of Department of English twice and Chair of the Program in Women and Gender Studies (Freedman). She taught 20 different courses across her time at Bates, as well as team-taught five other courses (Freedman). She was also an examiner for Idaho State University, the University of Connecticut, the University of Miami and Lafayette College (Freedman). Malcolmson retired from Bates College in 2016.

Whilst at Bates, she was a founding member of the George Herbert Society and recently, on the selection committee for the Chauncey Wood Dissertation Award 2017-2019 (Schoenfeldt, 1). She hosted the twelfth Conference for the International Margaret Cavendish Society at Bates in June, 2017 (In Memoriam). She participated as a panellist on 48 conference discussions across the world and was awarded nine faculty grants whilst at Bates (Freedman). In 2016, she was Senior Scholar in Residence, Society of Humanities for Cornell University.

Outside of work, she was a member of the Christian Science Church, Peace Action Maine, the Southern Maine Workers’ Centre. She died of a household accident, aged 70, at her home in Maine in 2020 (Portland Press Herald).

Works: edit

She had three books published and had ten essays on her areas of interest with a focus on the subject areas of; “Her scholarship allowed Bates to offer cutting-edge work in early modern gender, race, religion and courses in colonialism, early modern science, and pre-1800 women writers, in addition to surveys of 16th and 17th century English literature…” (Freedman). She also reviewed twelve publications over the course of her career and as well as being a scholarly evaluator for organisations such as the Social History of Medicine, Modern Philology, Shakespeare Quarterly, Clio and Norton Shakespeare (Freedman). She also wrote an entry for Magdalen Herbert, mother of George, for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Schoenfeldt).

The books were (in order of publication):

1. Heart-Work: George Herbert and the Protestant Ethic, published by Stanford University in 1999. This book examines in detail the Protestant aesthetic of early modern metaphysical priest George Herbert.

2. George Herbert: A Literary Life, published by Palgrave Macmillian, 2004. In this work, Malcolmson outlines a detailed biography of George Herbert and the relationship to his literary career.

3. Studies of Skin Color in the Early Royal Society: Boyle, Cavendish, Swift. Published by Ashgate in 2013. In this book, she investigates and interrogates the writings of early modern authors and scientists in relation to skin colour and racism; operating on the notion that race is a social and historical construct (AtHutchins).

She also co-edited and wrote part of Early Modern Cultural Studies 1500-1700 with Mihoko Suzuki, published by Palgrave MacMillian in 2002.

Reputation/Legacy: edit

Colleague and associate professor at Bates, Sanford Freedman lists her other accomplishments as:

“She has been lauded with awards and prizes… a visiting fellowship at the University of London…. a Phillips Fellowship, a Lincoln and Gloria Ladd Research Fellowship, the President’s Discretionary Fund Award, a Roger Schmutz Faculty Research Award, a Mellon Fellowship, the Griswold Research Fund, Regents University Fellowship, and a McGinty Research Fund Award.”

Her third book, Studies of Skin Color in the Early Royal society: Boyle, Cavendish, Swift, was shortlisted for the 2013 British Society of Literature and Science Book Prize (Freedman). It is even described as “…a book ahead of its time” (Schoenfeldt) and

In a tribute to her, fellow Berkley graduate from her class, Michael C. Schoenfeldt describes her work and life as, “Her ethical and political commitments were deep, and authentic and abiding, and sprang from the same spiritually engaged place that allowed her to understand Herbert’s worldly entanglements with such sympathy.” (Schoenfeldt, 2). Freedman says of her, “…Cristina Malcolmson, who is the very epitome of academic energy and honesty that we all strive for…”

Her three books and various essays are still used today in the field of early modern writing and the scholarly study of religious figures such as George Herbert.

She is survived by her brother and cousin, as well as “…friends from coast to coast.” (Portland Press)


“Cristina Malcolmson.” A.T. Hutchins Funeral and Cremation Services, n.d. https://www.athutchins.com/obituary/Cristina-Malcolmson

Schoenfeldt, C. Michael. Cristina Malcolmson, 1950-2020: A Tribute. George Herbert Society. https://english.uncg.edu/george-herbert-society/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2020/07/Malcomson-Remembrance.pdf

Freedman, Sandford. “Malcolmson, Cristina: Tribute to Retiring Professor of English Cristina Malcolmson by her Associate Professor of English, Sandford Freeman, on May 2, 2016.” Bates College, May 2, 2016. https://www.bates.edu/english/malcolmson-cristina/

Suzuki, Mihoko. “In Memoriam: Cristina Malcolmson.” Margaret Cavendish Society, August 7, 2020. https://www.margaretcavendishsociety.org/post/in-memoriam-christina-malcolmson

“Obituary: Cristina Malcolmson.” Portland Press Herald, July 30 2020. https://www.pressherald.com/2020/07/30/obituarycristina-malcolmson/

Further Reading: edit

Malcolmson, Christina. George Herbert: A Literary Life. Palgrave Macmillan Limited, 2003.

Malcolmson, Christina. Studies of Skin Colour in the Early Royal Society: Boyle, Cavendish, Swift. Ashgate Publishing, 2013.

Malcolmson, Cristina. “‘As Tame as the Ladies’: Politics and Gender in the Changeling.” English Literary Renaissance, vol.20, issue 2, 1990, pp.320-339.

Malcolmson, Cristina. “George Herbert’s ‘Country Parson’ and the Character of Social Identity.” Studies in Philology, vol.85, no.2, 1988, pp.245-266.

Malcolmson, Cristina. “John Donne and the Debate About Women.” George Herbert Journal, vol.29, issue ½, 2005, pp.92-113.

Malcolmson, Cristina. “Christine de Pizan in Early Modern English.” Debating Gender in Early Modern England, edited by Cristina Malcolmson and Mihoko Suzuki, Palgrave Macmillian, 2002.