Mary Martin McLaughlin Memorial Lecture 2022

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by Ben Reed, Kelly Stage Sat, 03/12/2022 - 11:26

Dr. Anna Riehl Bertolet to present annual Mary Martin McLaughlin Memorial Lecture, March 21 2022

On March 21, the Medieval and Renaissance Studies program welcomes guest speaker, Dr. Anna Riehl Bertolet, Director of Core Literature and Professor of English at Auburn University, to give the annual Mary Martin McLaughlin Memorial Lecture. Bertolet will speak on the works of Hannah Woolley and Margaret Cavendish, whose writings are widely recognized both in their time and by modern scholars as key commentaries regarding life and social issues in the 1600s. Her talk is entitled, Flights of Fancy and Practical Strokes: Feminine Aesthetics of Hannah Woolley and Margaret Cavendish.”

The lecture will be held on the UNL City Campus at 5:30 PM CST on March 21, in Andrews Hall (room 117). Masks are recommended but not required at the event. If you cannot attend the lecture in person, you may still register for a zoom feed to see the speakers. Please visit:

Hannah Woolley, trained in “Physick and Chirurgery,” is believed to be the first writer to earn a living writing books on household management. She also ran a free grammar school in Essex with her husband. Her books, including The Ladies Directory and The Cooks Guide, were popular enough that she had to deal with multiple instances of other authors plagiarizing her work. Margaret Cavendish similarly made phenomenal advancements for women writers when, despite receiving no formal education in disciplines like philosophy and history, her works are still considered by The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy as “taking on important debates in social and political philosophy, with a focus on issues of agency and authority.” In addition to philosophical and scientific writing, Cavendish’s bibliography covered an impressive number of genres including poetry, fiction, and plays that are read to this day and increasingly the focus of feminist and gender scholarship in early modern studies. She is best known for her fantastical, science fiction forerunner and utopian prose work, The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing-World (1666). That work, and others of her oeuvre, are well known for their detailed forays into scientific discourse and explorations of gender constructs.

Professor Bertolet is an award-winning teacher specializing in early modern and visual cultures. Her research has received support from the Folger Institute, Auburn University (Office of the Provost, College of Liberal Arts, and Department of English), American Association of University Women, University of Illinois at Chicago, and the English-Speaking Union. She is the author of ten articles and book chapters, as well as a book, The Face of Queenship: Early Modern Representations of Elizabeth (2010). She has edited and co-edited three additional works, including most recently Creating the Premodern in the Postmodern Classroom: Creativity in early English Literature and History Courses (2018) with UNL’s own Willa Cather Professor of History Emeritus, Dr. Carole Levin. In 2014 she organized the weeklong ShakespeareFest event celebrating the Bard’s 450th birthday and included the participation of 150 undergraduate and graduate students, alumni, faculty, and staff from various departments at Auburn University.

The talk will also feature special guest Emily Ernst, a Dallas-based actor and director.Ms Ernst will add dramatic readings of primary materials from the lecture, as well as rehearse some of the more moving and dramatic passages from Queen Elizabeth I’s speeches. Emily is the founder of Fair Assembly Theater Company in Dallas, currently serves as the Development and Programs Assistant at Cry Havoc Theater Company in Dallas, and also serves as associate artistic director for Teatro Dallas. She earned her BFA from Southern Methodist University and studied movement at L’École internationale de théâtre in Paris. She also has taught for the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film and worked for Theatre for a New Audience in New York City.

The Medieval and Renaissance Studies program also recognizes Mary Martin McLaughlin’s landmark scholarship through this memorial lecture, and Dr. Bertolet’s extensive work on women and early modern queenship makes her an especially fitting speaker for this occasion. Mary Martin McLaughlin, a native of Grand Island and a graduate (BA and MA) of the UNL History Department, was a scholar of women, children, and family in medieval Europe. She earned her PhD at Columbia University and taught at Wellesley, Vassar, and the University of Nebraska. Two books (with co-editor James Bruce Ross) published during her lifetime, “The Portable Medieval Reader” and “The Portable Renaissance Reader,” made her work a staple of college courses for decades. Her masterwork, “Heloise and the Paraclete: A Twelfth-Century Quest” (with Bonnie Wheeler) was published in 2002, and her edition of “The Letters of Heloise and Abelard” (also with Wheeler) was published posthumously in 2009. 

In 2010 Carole Levin, then the Director of the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program, established the annual Mary Martin McLaughlin Memorial Lecture to honor McLaughlin, and started fund raising to support the lecture. Mary Martin McLaughlin received her B.A. and M.A. in History at the University of Nebraska and pioneered the field of pre-modern European women's studies.  In 2017 Carole established a specific fund for the lecture, and though the help and support of the University of Nebraska Foundation and a number of very generous donors, the fund is now endowed. 

The talk is free and open to the public. An informal reception will follow the lecture.