More than words
Trisha Pender is leading the charge in the expanding world of research into early modern women's writing.
Dr Patricia (Trisha) Pender, from the Faculty of Education and Arts, is a rising star within the University of Newcastle having recently won a range of grants and awards for her work as coordinator of the Early Modern Women's Research Network (EMWRN).
Most significantly is the funding of an ARC Discovery Project grant worth $149,800 for her research project Early Modern Women's Writing and the Institutions of Authorship: Publication, Collaboration, Translation.
This project will provide the first in-depth account of early modern women's contributions to the history of the book by considering their roles in publication, collaboration and translation. Trisha said this project aims to transform early modern book history by considering agents and forms of literary labour that have previously been deemed marginal to the discipline as a whole.
"In doing so, it will challenge and refine categories of authorship that have been defined in almost exclusively masculine terms, providing a more complete and historically nuanced account of authorial institutions crucial to the future of early modern literary studies," Trisha said.
In 2013 Trisha also won the $40,000 S. Ernest Sprott Fellowship to research the roles that women played in the literary culture of the 16th and 17th centuries.
This fellowship will see Trisha spending five months in 2014 conducting archival research in the British Library that will inform her second book, Early Modern Women and the Institutions of Authorship: Publication, Collaboration, Translation.
In October 2013 she won the Resse Fellowship in American Bibliography and the History of the Book at the American Antiquarian Society.
Her outstanding year culminated in being named the Vice- Chancellors Award winner for Research Excellence not only for the Faculty, but also for the whole University.
"What's really interesting is that it came out of nothing."
This is how Trisha describes the humble beginnings of the Early Modern Women Research Network (EMWRN), which has continued to gain momentum and global recognition since its inception in 2007.
Trisha was awarded a five-year Research Fellowship at the University of Newcastle in 2007 after spending 12 years in the US earning her doctorate at Stanford and teaching as an Assistant Professor at Pace University in New York City.
It was at Newcastle that new colleagues Trisha and Associate Professor Rosalind Smith answered the call for applications to set up national research clusters under the ARC's Network of Early European Research (NEER) banner.
With little more than the ARC's sanction on offer, the two felt there was "literally nothing to lose".
They received a NEER grant for a meagre $2000 but within a short time they had built up an international research network that was attracting attention not only to EMWRN but to the University of Newcastle.
"EMWRN was built from virtually nothing but excitement and graft," Trisha says.
The group received another $2000 ARC grant two years later, all the while continuing to gain impetus.
EMWRN steamrolled and in 2012 received a $210,000 ARC Discovery Projects grant to fund research around The Material Cultures of Early Modern Women's Writing: Editing, Reception and Mediation.
Trisha explains that they use the term "early modern" rather than "Renaissance" as they are trying to make a connection between the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Where the term Renaissance has been used in the past to signal the ideological triumph of an elite group of Protestant men, "early modern" places the period in a longer historical perspective, and includes the concerns of marginalised groups such as women, the working classes, and religious and racial minorities.
"Early modern takes away that triumphal rhetoric, it is a more historicist perspective."
By studying material cultures, EMWRN is focusing not so much on the authors and their biographies but on what they wrote and how it was disseminated. Part of the project is researching the history of the book.
"We are looking at the production, transmission and reception of the work. How was it produced in print? How was it circulated? How have these been received?"
Trisha and Ros played a central role in the Early Modern Studies Conference at the University of Reading, UK, in July 2013, when EMWRN sponsored a three-day stream of panels on the material cultures of early modern women's writing.
"We had an overwhelming response to our call for papers on the subject and we realised that scholars from around the world are really engaged in this material," Trisha says.
"It emphasised just how much interest there is, and through EMWRN we can continue to harness that energy."
The group hosted an Early Modern Studies Symposium in Newcastle in September 2013, featuring international keynote speakers Professor Stephen Orgel and Dr Michael Wyatt from Stanford University.
The one-day symposium was crowned by a celebration of the special issue of the journal Parergon, on Early Modern Women and the Apparatus of Authorship, edited by Trisha, Ros and New Zealand EMWRN counterpart Sara Ross. Visiting luminary Stephen Orgel did the honours of launching the issue.
For Trisha, one of the highlights of the symposium was the opportunity to invite undergraduate students to be part of the research experience.
"We wanted to show students, potentially RHD students, that early modern scholarship is a dynamic field of study," Trisha says.
In this spirit, Ros and Trisha have initiated a new $500 undergrad scholarship out of their EMWRN budget.
When she applied for her five-year post doctoral research scholarship at Newcastle, she was the only scholar to receive one in the Faculty of Education and Arts.
"I've always been a bit grant happy. At Stanford they used to call me the grant maven. It's a strange fixation," she laughs.