A local professor of English in the Sacramento and Davis regional area at the University of California, Davis has won a $60,000 fellowship to support her research and writing of a new book. This work will be about female virginity–on culturally debating the hymen–in the early modern period. Check out the April 6, 2011 Sacramento Bee article, “UC Davis English professor wins $60,000 fellowship.”
Professor Margaret Ferguson has been awarded a yearlong American Council of Learned Societies fellowship to research, financially support, and write her book, “Missing the Maidenhead: Cultural Debates About the Hymen in the Early Modern Period.”
Ferguson is one of 19 professors nationwide to receive the fellowship this year, according to a UC Davis news release. Dr. Ferguson joined the UC Davis faculty in 1997 and served as chairwoman of the English Department from 2006 to 2009. She has received four literary awards for her book Dido’s Daughters: Literacy, Gender, and Empire in Early Modern England and France.
Dido’s Daughters, at 520 pages, published in 2003 won the 2004 Book Award from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women and the 2003 Roland H. Bainton Prize for Literature from the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference. Women can take a look at the common definition of literacy, which to some is the ability to read and write in one language. But as Margaret Ferguson reveals in Dido’s Daughters, this description is inadequate, because it fails to help us understand heated conflicts over literacy during the emergence of print culture.
The fifteenth through seventeenth centuries, she shows, were a contentious era of transition from Latin and other clerical modes of literacy toward more vernacular forms of speech and writing. Check out this excellent book.
Margaret W. Ferguson is a professor of English and comparative literature at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of Trials of Desire Renaissance Defenses of Poetry, and coeditor of a number of books, most recently The Norton Anthology of Poetry, fourth edition. For further information see the site, Margaret W. Ferguson — Department of English, UC Davis.
Margaret Ferguson joined the UC Davis faculty in 1997, according to the UC Davis website on this faculty member. Before coming to Davis, she taught at Yale, Columbia, and the University of Colorado at Boulder.
She has held visiting professorships at UC Berkeley and Middlebury College (The Bread Loaf School of English). Her areas of interest include Renaissance literature, literacy studies, and feminist theory.
Ferguson has published extensively on these topics. Currently, she is a member of the advisory boards for Boundary 2: A Journal of Postmodern Literature, Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, Comparative Literature Studies, and Modern Language Quarterly. Also see, Boundary 2: an international journal of literature. She has served on many committees of the Modern Language Association, including the Executive Committee, the translation prize committee, the Elections Committee, and, currently, the Executive Committee for the Division of 17th C. British Literature.
Professor Ferguson has also been on the executive board of the Renaissance Society of America and has served as a trustee of the Shakespeare Association of America. She received teaching awards at Yale and the University of Colorado and an Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award at the University of California, Davis.
As winner of several fellowships including a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and a NEH Fellowship, Professor Ferguson served as Chair of the UC Davis English Department from 2006 to 2009. She is currently working on her latest book, Missing the Maidenhead: Cultural Debates About the Hymen in the Early Modern Period. See the website, Fellowship to support prof’s look at debates over virginity.
Topics that this new book will emphasize include the transition from virgin to wife, debates about the meaning of female virginity during the Reformation era in England, and the hymen as a magnet for debate. As readers look through history, the debates come up for discussion. Those debates were inspired in part by the long reign of a queen who refused to marry at all, Elizabeth I. It’s of value to look at female virginity through that lens to reconsider what’s happening in modern debates about female virginity.
The hymen has been a mystery and point of contention between the sexes for thousands of years. You have in various cultures, families and suitors asking for proof of a hymen’s existence in females. In some countries female virginity has legal ramifications. For example, in some modern societies, if a wife is shown not to be a virgin, her own family or her new husband has rights over the woman.
Debating the hymen is about relationships, both tangible and intangible, visible and invisible in various cultures and times. Is the idea of virginity an area of mistrust between men and women or parents and adult children? One example is the parent’s expectation that their daughter will remain a virgin in college, at work, or in the military service, in some cultures compared to the expectation that their son may not be restricted or asked to reveal details about his virginity while away at college, in the military service, or at work.
Interestingly, some cultures still test women for virginity, but don’t bother the males with those questions, especially when they’re away in military service or traveling. Look forward to this fascinating new book on female virginity and the debates surrounding that topic.
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