We asked contributors to the current issue of Parergon to give us some additional insights into their research and the inspirations for their articles. In this post, Kelly Peihopa at the University of Newcastle, Australia, discusses ‘Reframing Feminine Modesty, Complaint, and Desire in the More Family’. DOI: 10.1353/pgn.2020.0003
Kelly Peihopa began this article as her major work for part of her BA degree in the history discipline. This earlier work focused on the education of the women of Thomas More’s immediate circle, and how the More women worked within patriarchal restrictions to further their education and reputations. She became fascinated with how some early modern women overcame certain patriarchal restrictions by working through the channels of patriarchy, which enabled them to continue their education and protect their reputations; something that was unique to the More women during the early 1500s.
Because of a fascination with the More women’s history, Kelly began to work towards an honours thesis in English. She developed her paper into a wider argument to include themes such familial, religious and modesty rhetoric, as well as complaint and petitions, which were specific ways More women used their feminine voice to enable a ‘safe passage’ for their works. This research was extended to include More’s traceable women ancestors with extant literary evidence during the early modern period, which found a literary legacy was sustained by the More women for several generations. Upon earning first class honours, she was encouraged to turn her thesis into an academic paper. Once again, the work was researched anew, refurbished and reframed over several months (and with more editing than she’d like to admit), to eventually become what it is today. Her article establishes how one family of women, through the legacy of their forbear, were able to continue to pursue a humanist education and publish and profess their religion through their works. They successfully performed this under the guise of genres, such as translation, letters and religious works, through exploiting rhetorical arguments and always navigating modesty and familial tropes to frame their work. Her work also found that without the ‘protection’ of a humanist circle, their work diminished. By considering the textual oeuvre of the More women as a chronological whole, something that is not usually considered in Morean women scholarship, the far-reaching literary legacy established by Thomas More can be appreciated as a unique achievement among early modern women’s writing.
Kelly became interested in early modern women’s writing after working as a research assistant for the Early Modern Women Research Network (EMWRN), under Rosalind Smith and Patricia Pender at the University of Newcastle. Her PhD dissertation is titled ‘Tudor Women’s Prison Literature: Reception, Circulation, Attribution’, which focuses on women’s prison writing which has been omitted from the prison canon because of the variety of genres and modes used, and the volume of dubious or contested works. Kelly also works as a research assistant for the Gender Research Network at the University of Newcastle. She has published creative nonfiction articles on domestic violence in Australia in Meanjin (‘The Hands of a Woman,’ Spring 2018) and Sūdō Journal (‘Becoming a Statistic,’ 1: 2019), and in 2020, co-edited a digital edition of Mary Wroth’s Urania manuscript with Paul Salzman on EMWRN’S digital archive, The Material Cultures of Early Modern Women.
Parergon can be accessed via Project MUSE (from Volume 1 (1983)), Australian Public Affairs – Full Text (from 1994), and Humanities Full Text (from 2008). For more information on the current issue and on submitting manuscripts for consideration, please visit https://parergon.org/