On Saturday, April 2, Medieval Studies MA Heather Hill presented a paper at North Carolina State University’s Graduate Student History Conference. This paper, entitled “Textual Inheritance: A Theory for Agency of Women in English Books of Hours,” is based on seminar work with Dr. Alex Novikoff in the History department, and serves as the foundation for her thesis. Heather considers trends in the historiography related to books of hours and merges them into a form of Brian Stock’s textual community. The result is textual inheritance, where the commissioner of a book of hours serves as the interpreter for a greater textual community that is formed by the people who have inherited the book of hours. Through textual inheritance, the commissioner influences the devotional and educational practices of the inheritors, thus giving authority to the commissioner in their selection. Heather argues that this is especially significant where women act as commissioner and men become inheritors, since women rarely get the opportunity to influence the devotional practices of men. In her paper, Heather considers this concept in relation to two books of hours, the Egerton Hours and the Felbrygg Hours, and highlights the possible impact that the female commissioners of these books may have had on their beneficiaries.
Heather presented her paper on the “Religion and Artistic Expression in Early Modern Europe” panel alongside Amber McDermott from University of California Riverside, who presented on sculptural depictions of female suicide in eighteenth-century France. Heather also attended a panel on the contested roles of women in the nineteenth century. The presenters on this panel considered environmental factors along with the gender roles in nineteenth-century Florida and in the Rocky Mountains, discovering how women defied their prescribed positions in each of these areas.
Another panel Heather attended was on poverty and progress in American cities. The two papers in the panel hit close to home for Heather, quite literally. The first looked at Huntington, the second largest city in Heather’s home state of West Virginia. This paper described the development of Huntington in the late nineteenth century as a railroad hub close to resource-rich rural areas of southern West Virginia. The second paper was on Heather’s second home, describing the food desert in the South Bronx. Just a few decades ago, this area was rich in fresh produce and large markets; now, fast food restaurants dominate the landscape. The paper explored how urbanization changed the food in the South Bronx and the role poverty played in this transformation. Heather found this discussion particularly striking in relation to her own experience of trying to find good food at affordable prices in the area. The author of this paper, Sam Hege, is a student at Rutgers University and is seeking to expand his work via digital mapping. Heather is excited to have exchanged contact information with Sam, and she intends to show him the work done at Medieval Studies and what he can do with digital maps.
Having had a great weekend of North Carolina barbecue and networking across several states, Heather considers her first graduate-level conference presentation outside of Fordham a rousing success!
By Heather Hill