Women, Image and Identity in the European Courts
Renaissance Society of America Conference
Montreal, 24 – 26 March 2011
This panel aims to bring together scholars from different disciplines who work on women at all levels of court society. Women at court were forced to confront conflicting expectations of appropriate female behaviour and manifold demands upon their loyalty. They often relied on informal and indirect means of achieving and maintaining influence and while they might wield a great deal of power, they were also vulnerable to attacks upon their reputation and changes in status and position that were outside their control. Despite the frequent uncertainty of their position, however, women of all ranks had a plurality of means at their disposal to negotiate their own sphere of action and to create and strengthen their position at court.
This call is for 20 minute papers that discuss the methods and strategies women employed to construct a place for themselves at court and to protect their image and identity. We are interested in women who occupied a variety of positions at court, from ladies-in-waiting to mistresses, from household servants to queen mothers, female consorts and princesses.
Possible topics for papers include:
Patronage – the commissioning of artistic/architectural/literary works.
Patronage – the construction and exploitation of political/social/familial networks.
Material Culture – appearance: clothing, jewellery, style and adornment.
Material Culture – spaces and people: the clothing of household staff and the furnishing of women’s quarters.
The Lifecycle – the marriage market at court, fecundity and sterility, the transfer of status between princess, queen and dowager, and the effects of changing status upon the household.
Female Networks: gifts/letter writing/travel/diplomacy.
Competition: rivalry, faction and alliance.
Reputation: fama, gossip, scandal, disgrace and the construction/protection/destruction of the public persona.
Performance and Spectacle: theatre/dance/music/pageants.
Please email a 150 word abstract of your paper, contact information and affiliation with the subject line ‘RSA Montreal’ by Saturday May 15, 2010 to the organisers:
Sarah Bercusson firstname.lastname@example.org
and Una McIlvenna email@example.com
Centre for Editing Lives and Letters
Queen Mary, University of London
Mile End Road, London
E1 4NS Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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