Deanne WilliamsSep 10, 2023
Girl Culture in the Middle Ages and Renaissance
Performance and Pedagogy
Arden Shakespeare 2023
Deanne Williams's newest book, Girl Culture in the Middle Ages and Renaissance: Performance and Pedagogy (Bloombury, 2023), is a groundbreaking study of the girl actor in the medieval and early modern world, demonstrating the existence of the girl performer in England long before the Restoration. Challenging existing academic assumptions about the supposed male dominance of the early modern stage, this book reveals girls' participation in a host of areas, from medieval religious drama to pageants and royal entries under the Tudors, country house entertainments, and Jacobean masques. Williams situates her historical study of the girl actor within the wider contexts of 'girl culture', including singing, translating, and writing. By examining the impact of the girl actor in Shakespeare's various constructions of girlhood– those girl characters which play upon the precedent of the performing girl in the medieval world– Girl Culture in the Middle Ages and Renaissance argues that girls' actively shaped culture in the middle ages and Renaissance through their various performances. Interweaving her study of literary texts with the lives of girls who wrote, collected, and performed them—people like Hroswitha of Gandersheim, Anne Boleyn, Jane Lumely, the Russell sisters, and Elizabeth Carey—Williams centers the lived reality of girl children as they interacted with dramatic culture.
Elspeth Currie is a PhD student in the Department of History at Boston College where she studies women’s intellectual history in early modern Europe.