Four students granted Schallek Awards for 1995-96 academic year

With a total of $2,500 in award money for the 1995-96 academic year, the Executive Committee has made Schallek Awards to four graduate students, based upon the recommendations of the Selection Committee.

In approving the awards, American Branch chairman A. Compton Reeves commented, “Once again, we have had a remarkably talented pool of applications for the Selection Committee to consider. This is a reflection of the rich resources the fifteenth century still has to offer a new generation of scholars.”

The four Schallek Scholars and their topics are listed below.

Susan M. Burns Steuer, University of Minnesota, Medieval Yorkshire Widows and a Second Career in Religion. “A widow in medieval England could make many choices about how to conduct her life, but her freedom was tenuous. Widows controlled at least a third of their late husbands’ property. This meant that they were often sought after as marriage partners because they could take wealth, land or business into another marriage. But a widow might prefer not to remarry because she wished to pursue her own life, because she did not want more children, because she had promised not to remarry, or because she wished to devote her time to religion. For such women there were several options including becoming vowesses, retiring to a hospital (through a corrody) or nunnery, or becoming actively religious in a nunnery or as a mystic. All these options involved acceptance of chastity as a way of life. Vowesses, for instance, took a vow of chastity but did not enter a nunnery so that they could continue to supervise their children’s upbringing and property while pursuing salvation….

“I propose to study the ‘second careers’ of these women in the See of York in particular, an area with which Richard III had strong ties, during the later Middle Ages. York’s geographic distance from London, the position of its archbishop as secondary to that of Canterbury, and its long tradition as a monastic center seems to have resulted in particular attention to the quality of religious life, including the production of a rich series of ecclesiastical records….

“My approach will be two-fold. One element will be prosopographical, tracing individual widows who chose a ‘second career’ in religion. This approach will permit an analysis of the social class of these women, their wealth, and the stage of their life cycle at which they made their decisions. The second goal of the study is an assessment of the position these widowed ‘careerists’ played in religious life of the late Middle Ages. Here I will be looking at the degree to which they were accepted or censured; the active roles they engaged in during the course of charity work, pilgrimages, endowment of religious buildings, and participation in religious life; and the extent to which they formed communities of piety among themselves. The chaste widows offer insights into church history (lay education — both artistic and literary — and women’s position in church structure), social history (women’s literacy, marriage, motherhood, and household structure) and intellectual history (the depiction of women’s roles in devotional and liturgical materials, theology, and contemporary literature).”

Amy Elizabeth Fahey, Washington University in St. Louis, Heralds and Heraldry in English Literature from the Fourteenth through Sixteenth Centuries. “During the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries, the science of heraldry operated as a complex system of social organization and visual commemoration which many authors viewed as oppositional or in some ways analogous to literary production. In Chaucer’s House of Fame, for example, the narrator confronts the implicit accusation that the poet’s endeavors bear a striking resemblance to those very activities — crying “riche folkes laudes”, fabricating genealogies, developing elaborate systems of display and ornamentation for either patronage or self-promotion — which increasingly fell within the purview of the herald…. With the predominance of heraldic imagery in the cultural aesthetics of the period, and the herald’s increasing jurisdiction over armorial matters, the late medieval Mercury stood to gain much in the way of pecuniary advantage, social and political influence, and even literary authority, often eclipsing the popular status of poets in his ability to perpetuate fame and reputation.

“As the symbols and practice of chivalry grew accessible to a wider audience through increased literacy and social mobility, the variety and scope of the herald’s activities rapidly expanded. By the late middle ages, heralds were considered extremely useful in matters of diplomacy…[a]nd heralds, unlike poets, were issued letters of ‘safe conduct,’ designed to protect their person regardless of the offensiveness of their message. This assured safety extended to the battlefield, making them crucial participants in the negotiations between order and upheaval at both the social and military levels… By the fifteenth century, heralds were increasingly relied upon as court journalists, and throughout the heyday of their careers, they were expected to possess a keen memory when delivering messages and to observe a documentary accuracy when composing their written accounts of feasts, battles, and similar public events….

“Yet the literary representations of heralds throughout this period is frequently at variance with the impressive record of their professional advancement. In earlier satiric accounts, heralds were associated with minstrels; similarly unattached to households and not yet possessing authority in armorial matters, they existed on the margins of image- making. But an equivocal or disparaging literary treatment of heralds continues long after they have acquired a significant degree of influence….The central focus of my study, then, will reside more in the various responses of authors to the challenges which heralds and heraldry present than in the vagaries of individual heraldic careers, colorful though they are. The heraldic concerns expressed in works such as Chaucer’s House of Fame, Skelton’s Garland of Laurel, Malory’s Morte Darthur, and Spenser’s Faerie Queene amount to a dialectic involving not only occupational discriminations, but also aesthetic, stylistic, narrative, and ethical choices…. The historical scope of my dissertation spans almost equidistantly before and beyond the brief reign of Richard III. But the centrality of the late fifteenth century to my project is not merely chronological; rather, the latter decades of this century witnessed literary and social events which illustrate the complex status of heraldry within English culture.”

R. M. Jennens, Northwestern University, The Role of Lawyers in Late Fifteenth-Century English Government. “This dissertation project grew out of my master’s thesis on the development of royal prerogative in the fifteenth century. As my research progressed, I became increasingly interested in how the personalities and backgrounds of the people who served the king affected royal policy and the long term development of royal government. particularly, during Edward IV’s reign it became apparent that the professionally trained men, predominantly men having training in the common law, whom Edward IV chose for his government marked that government with their peculiar mentalité and training. My current research for my dissertation has strongly reinforced this original impression. it is, perhaps, also particularly noteworthy that a very large proportion of the lawyers and legally trained men who entered positions in the central portion of Edward IV’s government came from Richard of Gloucester’s affinity; at this point, it seems to be a larger group than any of those that came from Hastings’, Rivers’, or the March affinities. Certainly, the working core and many others of Richard III’s government were common lawyers and the few records of council meetings and memoranda that exist markedly demonstrate these men’s influence and their legal training. The growing effectiveness of this type of professional and legal approach to government over Edward IV’s reign, its continuation and planned expansion under Richard III, and Henry VII’s acceptance of an expansion of it, after unsuccessful experiments of his own, ensured the lasting effects of Yorkist government.

“The choices that Edward IV made to adapt himself to the existing demands of the political nation, financial, administrative and judicial, while at the same time furthering his ideas of royal government resulted in a shifting away from some feudal/medieval ideas of government and a transformation of others. In the process of doing this Edward IV affected the crown’s position with respect to parliament, which was undergoing connected, parallel changes, and with respect to the larger political nation outside of Parliament. These changing relations had direct ramifications for the next 200 years. Obviously, none of this occurred in a vacuum nor was it the product solely of Edward IV. It is in order to examine how the government and the political nation developed and how their perceptions of each other changed during the late fifteenth century that this project is directed.”

Sharon D. Michalove, University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign, The Education of the English Aristocracy, 1399-1530. “The fifteenth century was a period of great political and social change and I would like to see whether those changes are reflected in education or whether education was a conservative process…. Sections [of the dissertation] will deal with the following groups: upper-class men who inherited estates or established a position at court, upper-class men who went into the church, and upper-class women. Each section in the body of the dissertation will have two parts. In the first part, I will synthesize the research that has been done on that particular group. In the second part I will describe a group of people and how they do or do not fit into the premises derived from the synthesis. Finally, I hope to draw conclusions about how the upper classes were educated and whether their education was based on gender, position in the family, or something else.

“Sociologist Christopher Hurn defines education as the ‘more or less deliberate process of transmitting the culture of the adult world to the young…. In this sense, all societies educate the young, whether or not the societies possess those institutions we call schools.” This seems an apt description of medieval English education. Education has always been a powerful tool for molding society. The English upper classes understood this and used their knowledge to create and cement their own power base by creating a type of education that defined the possessor as a ‘gentleman’ or ‘gentlewoman.’ In this dissertation, using a combination of synthesis and prosopography, I will define what that education was, what the subtle gradations in the hierarchy were, the results of that education, and how that education changed over the period 1399-1530….

“The education of women will receive particular attention. Some women in the gentry and nobility of later medieval England were educated to read and write in English, speak French, and receive instruction in how to run a household. By studying women such as Eleanor Townshend, Margery Kempe, Margaret Paston, Margaret Beaufort, and Cecily Neville and her daughter Margaret of Burgundy, some generalizations can be made about fifteenth-century medieval women and education, drawing on the work of Joan Simon and Linda Pollock for early modern England for some theoretical constructs.”