By Deb A.
Let's start the year with some optimism: $1.7 million dollars has been awarded to an academic research project focused on rescuing the poems, letters, and reflections written by European women in the early modern period (1500-1780).
The goal of Women's Invisible Ink: Trans-Genre Writing and the Gendering of Intellectual Value in Early Modernity is not to find the female Shakespeare. Instead, Carme Font, a lecturer in English literature at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, wants to finally accord value to the writing that until now had been cast aside.
Font and her team will uncover texts written by women who, for the most part, had no formal education. While their style may be less sophisticated than the treatises of their educated male contemporaries, these stories and diaries and prayers and poems nevertheless contain intellectually valuable thoughts.
Taken together, they present a view of the world that has yet to be acknowledged and appreciated.
Most of what women of the time wrote about their lives and ideas was not considered intellectual, whether they were addressing philosophical or religious questions or describing their lives and struggles. Font argues that throughout history, misogyny has permeated how people evaluate texts, leading to what she terms "cognitive androcentrism."
We still tend to forget that women's experiences are worthy too; as Font told El País, "we do not value a woman's text about the pain of childbirth, but we do value a soldier's letter from the front."
In recovering women's voices, Font aims to change our perceptions of women's intellectual contribution to civilisation. With her European Research Council funding, she will employ five full-time researchers to pore through national archives, libraries, and private collections, amassing a powerful collective legacy for us all.
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