The University of Newcastle, Australia

Marginalia and the Early Modern Woman Writer, 1530-1660.

Closing Date: 30 November 2019

PhD Scholarship

The research undertaken is part of an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship and will provide an ambitious new literary history of how early modern women read and wrote in the margins of their books, uncovering new texts, practices, writers and readers across 150 years. It aims to change the ways in which we understand reading and writing practice in the English Renaissance.

Early modern writer

The PhD candidate will be trained in archival fieldwork, project management, writing, publication, seminar and conference organisation and other dissemination activities.

This project aims to provide the first literary history of early modern women's marginalia, uncovering a significant new field of textual practice for women in the English Renaissance. It will be the first examination of the scope, content and purpose of early modern women's marginalia, both written by women and annotating their texts, in order to make new discoveries about reading and writing in the period. The project's findings will shift our understanding about the practice of early modern marginal annotation, with implications for scholarship of the history of the book, early modern literary history and studies of women's writing. Its outcomes will be disseminated in print and open-access digital forms to enable further scholarship.

Reading is a central mechanism through which the English Renaissance was instituted: a means by which the classical world reached the early modern subject and vernacular textual culture came to flourish. Evidence for how reading operated is partly dependent on the traces readers left behind in their books: on marginal annotations. These annotations not only provide crucial evidence of reading practice, but also function as an overlooked source of extraordinary writing. A world of textual activity can be found here: indentations, marks, signatures, requests for remembrance, short lyrics, devotional meditations, letters and extended prose tracts teem in the margins of early modern books and manuscripts, in both scribal and print forms. The margin has emerged as one of the most significant new textual sites of the period, moving from the edges of scholarship to a place of central importance. However, most of the scholarship in this field still focuses on men’s use of marginalia, overlooking hundreds of instances of marginal annotation by women. This project will provide the first scholarly examination of how early modern women writers engaged with the margins of their books. It will radically expand our conception of what early modern women’s writing is, how it was circulated, interpreted and received, as well as re-evaluating, from a new perspective, our understanding of reading, writing and book use in early modern England.

The research has four main aims:

  • To uncover the contents, scope and significance of marginalia written by early modern women across a range of textual forms, as evidence of both histories of reading and cultures of writing
  • To investigate marginalia annotating early modern women’s writing in order to understand the ways in which early modern women’s writing has been read, framed and transmitted by their contemporaries and beyond
  • To reconceptualize marginalia from this new perspective, providing new methodological formulations of the relationships between margin and centre, female and male textual practice, paratext and text, reading and writing
  • To represent an unknown corpus of marginalia in new digital forms that bring together new materialist and digital humanities scholarship and creates an open-source resource for future work in the field.

A discrete project within the broader study of early modern women’s marginalia will be undertaken by the PhD candidate, working with archival material gathered by the project team and contributing to the project outcomes as a whole. During the last six months of the project, the PhD candidate will be involved in bringing substantial scholarly publications to conclusion, including the submission of a monograph and a journal special issue to publishers.

Apart from the stated PhD stipend, a laptop and cash support for the candidate ($7,500) will be provided. Travel to international conferences and fieldwork in national and international archives have also been costed as part of the larger project for the successful PhD candidate.

PhD Scholarship details

Funding: This scholarship will be funded by an ARC Grant. $27,596 per annum (2019 rate) indexed annually. The living allowance scholarship is for 3.5 years and the tuition fee scholarship is for four years.

Supervisor: Professor Rosalind Smith

Available to: Domestic and International students


Eligibility Criteria

Honours in English Literature (1/1 or high 2/1) with some experience in the study of Renaissance Literature preferred. Experience in working in Digital Humanities an advantage. The applicant will also need to meet the minimum eligibility criteria for admission. The successful applicant must be able to commence the PhD by 2 March 2020.

Application Procedure

Interested applicants should send an email expressing their interest along with scanned copies of their academic transcripts, CV, a brief statement of their research interests and a proposal that specifically links them to the research project.

Please send the email expressing interest to by 5pm on 30 November 2019.

Applications Close 30 November 2019

Contact Professor Rosalind Smith
Phone +61 2 4921 5180

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