Three students granted Schallek Awards for 1996-97 academic year

With a total of $2,500 in award money for the 1996-97 academic year, the Executive Committee has made Schallek Awards to three graduate students, based upon the recommendations of the Selection Committee.

Anna Dronzek, University of Minnesota. Manners, Models, and Morals: Conduct Books for Women in Late Medieval England. 
“It has become a commonplace among scholars that women in the Middle Ages were bombarded with messages telling them to be chaste, silent, and obedient. It is less clear how women themselves reacted to these messages. One source for these ideals is conduct books, didactic texts that set out explicitly to teach women how to behave in a range of circumstances, from love affairs to the town market to their own households. These books, surviving in the greatest numbers in England from the second half of the fifteenth century, provide the historian with an opportunity to examine the ways in which the Middle Ages constructed gender roles for both men and women. My dissertation will analyze the role conduct books for women played in late medieval English culture, with particular attention to the historical realities of women’s lives.

“People generally have no problem identifying their gender, but the process by which past cultures created and assigned gender roles remains largely mysterious. It is this process I hope to make clearer in my dissertation. Some scholars have described conduct books as predictable, dull, and monotonous in their antifeminism, but to push this conclusion no further is to leave unexplored what conduct books reveal about how late medieval England constructed gender. Clarifying this process adds significantly to our knowledge of the cultural context of Richard III’s reign. Moreover, conduct books attempted — successfully or not — to impose social control, intending to sustain a hierarchy of gender and class. Such cultural underpinnings were crucial to maintaining the patriarchal structure of late medieval Europe, and consequently influenced much of western civilization and provided the not-so-distant roots of attitudes toward women today. Understanding these cultural underpinnings will allow historians to define more clearly what patriarchy is and how it functions in a society. It is also important to understand how and to what extent conduct book ideals circulated throughout society; such an understanding can provide a model for the way ideology functions in a specific historical contexts, and may lend insight into the manner in which ideals for women circulate in other societies, including our own.”

John Dwyer, University of Colorado. Local Control in the Age of Reformation: Hereford, 1475-1620. “I am intensely interested in how ‘modern society’ came into being. Society looked very different than it does today just a few hundred years ago. How did we get from there to here? I have chosen what I believe to be one of the watershed events on the way to modernization — the Protestant Reformation in Europe.

“Historians often describe changes brought about by the Reformation without having adequately studied the time just prior to the Reformation. Too often historians confidently assert that the economic, political, or religious climate of the sixteenth century brought about fundamental and radical changes in English society. Yet, the more we explore the poorer records of the fifteenth century, the more historians are discovering the same patterns already occurring in Lancastrian and Yorkist England. ….My dissertation seeks to bring to life the religious, social, economic, and political lives of people living between the late fifteenth century and the early seventeenth century in the city of Hereford. The central question is: why did governments seek to increase their control over their communities, including their fellow townspeople, during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Was religious a central cause as many historians have asserted? Because Hereford was a conservative town religiously and politically, I have been able to question the role of religion in bringing about change. Hereford has thus far exhibited the same concerns for control that are characteristic of so-called ‘Puritan’ cities but it did so before the Reformation. Here is a striking example of why historians need to pay more attention to the fifteenth century.

“The culture and society of the Welsh Marches has been a meagerly investigated area of England in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The research I am undertaking will add a great deal to our knowledge about customs, language, politics, the economy, and even naming practices in one of the larger towns along the Welsh border. Clearly Hereford was heavily influenced by both English and Welsh practices in many areas. My dissertation will show that, although Hereford was religiously conservative, it was socially progressive in its concerns about morality of the community even in the fifteenth century. “

Matthew B. Goldie, City University of New York. Fifteenth-Century Language and Language Play.

“While many present-day critics and historians argue that the fifteenth century exhibits a greater conservatism in its writing than did the fourteenth, I argue that the questions raised by such contemporary issues as an anxiety of influence about fourteenth-century literary precedents, the issues surrounding heretical writing and the problems of the kingship lead to a preoccupation with the sign. This does not close down experimentation but instead generates more texts about the very process of composition and about the authority of texts in the vernacular.

“In plays like Mankind, the Digby Mary Magdalen (c. 1510), and the N-Town plays of The Trial of Mary and Joseph and Christ and the Doctors (1468- c. 1500), Latin and aureate English are used (and misused) to lead the main protagonist to good and bad ends. Not only is an examination of character and morality occurring, but language itself is under scrutiny. If the same words are used to lead a character to good and bad ends, then where does the truth reside in language? In a closely related field, sermon literature of the period also explores the problem of operating in a world of two (or more) authoritative languages. What guarantees do composers, readers and listeners have that the words will signify correctly within a moralized sign system and, therefore, that the audience will be led in the correct direction?”

“The poetry of Thomas Hoccleve, John Lydgate, and the Scottish poets also explore such issues. Their writings return again and again to a concept embodied in a word that appears often in their verse…the word ‘feyning.’ Most simply, this can mean ‘to make,’ but it can also mean dissembling in deed or word. Even poets’ translations reveal an ambivalence about the ability to transcribe received words truthfully and effectively. Gavin Douglas, in the Prologue to his Aeneid, struggles to decide whether to translate for the sentence or ‘To follow alanerly Virgilis wordis,’ whether to write in Latin, French, English or Scottish, and where the truth may reside in writing that contains a mix of languages.

“The writings of the great women mystics, Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe, explore several problems concerning language. First, they question the ability of language to equal internal emotions. How does one write an account of emotions when such an important part of one’s experience seems extra-linguistic? On the other hand, because they are women who are called upon to authorize their experiences, language is necessary. Margery Kempe in particular explicitly relies on strategic readings of texts to support her claims for orthodoxy.”

Goldie hopes to be able “to teach a still-neglected an extraordinarily playful and rich century of English and Scottish writing here in the United States. I intend to show students that literature does not end with Chaucer and jump to Spencer of Shakespeare but that there are significant and important writers in the mid- and late-fifteenth century.”

The William B. Schallek Memorial Graduate Fellowship awards are supported by an endowment fund begun in 1978 by William Schallek and mnamed for him after his death. The fund is supplemented by additional contributions by his widow, Maryloo Schallek, and by other generous Ricadians. Contributions to the Schallek Fund are fully tax-deductible. As always, our thanks are due to the five members of our Selection Committee who give generously of their time to evaluate the appliations:

  • Lorraine C. Attreed, Holy Cross College
  • Barbara A. Hanawalt, University of Minnesota
  • Morris G. McGee, Montclair State University (emeritus)
  • Shelley A. Sinclair, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
  • Charles T. Wood, Dartmouth College