“Revelation and Transformation: Avian Imagery in Gerard Manly Hopkins’s “Pied Beauty,” “The Windover,” and “God’s Grandeur” by Jane Beal

screen shot 2019-01-29 at 4.10.53 pmMy essay, “Revelation and Transformation: Avian Imagery in Gerard Manly Hopkins’s ‘Pied Beauty,’ ‘The Windover,’ and ‘God’s Grandeur,‘ now appears in Integrité: A Faith and Learning Journal (Fall 2018): 25-38.

Excerpt: 

“The religious, meditative quality of these poems is well-known and widely-acknowledged. So too is their starting point and source of inspiration: the beauty of the natural world – especially its avifauna. Hopkins certainly noticed the “finches’ wings” he mentions in “Pied Beauty” and the Common Kestrel he describes in “The Windover” in nature, and his comparison of the Holy Spirit to a bird who “broods” in “God’s Grandeur,” in language that evokes the creation narrative of Genesis and the traditional, biblical comparison of the Holy Spirit to the dove, also appears to have a direct connection to his lived experience, for he wrote in a letter to his friend Robert Bridges of birds brooding and making their nests in boughs. As this essay will show, the birds in these poems are revealed through Hopkins’ poetic descriptions, but their significance is heightened, and indeed, transformed, in order to align with the themes of his poems. These themes are God’s immutability, God’s immanence, and God’s intimate care for the created world.

Three major cultural developments in Hopkins’ Victorian society provide contexts for interpreting these sonnets and their avian imagery: theories of natural selection, the invention of photography, and the effects of the Industrial Revolution. Evidence from Hopkins’ life and letters shows his awareness of “Darwinism”; ephemera associated with Hopkins and his extended family, including the carte de viste, show his familiarity with the popularity of portrait photography. The poet certainly echoes the complaints of other nineteenth-century poets about the damaging effects of industrialization. The evidence of his general knowledge of these wide-spread cultural shifts in Victorian England lends support to a literary-critical investigation of how Hopkins may be responding to such developments in in his sonnets in ways that previously have not been recognized.

As this essay will suggest, Hopkins’ reference to “finches’ wings” in “Pied Beauty” can be read as a subtle response to Darwin’s use of “Galapagos finches,” described in a study he published as a prelude to On the Origin of the Species (1859); this reading is consonant with the theme of God’s immutability celebrated in the poem. In “The Windover,” Hopkins appears to be incorporating Henry Fox Talbot’s pioneering developments in photography in his description of a Common Kestrel. In his book, The Pencil of Nature (1844-46), Talbot described photography as “light” that “draws” pictures. Likewise, Hopkins writes of how the dawn has “drawn” the windover that he equates with Christ, a comparison which supports the theme of God’s immanence in the poem. Finally, in “God’s Grandeur,” Hopkins is contrasting the effects of industrialization, which he associates with the Fall, to the ongoing, intimate, and creative care of the Holy Spirit for the world, which he depicts in his poem.”

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“Jane Hawkins: A Colonial American Midwife and a Complicated Birth” by Jane Beal

Screen Shot 2018-12-17 at 2.53.52 PMMy essay, “Jane Hawkins: A Colonial American Midwife and a Complicated Birth,” appears in Midwifery Today 128 (Winter 2018), 28-29.

EXCERPT: 

“Jane Hawkins came from St. Ives, Cornwall, to America with other Puritan Christians in 1635. She settled in Boston with her husband, Richard Hawkins, where she served as a midwife. She was an older woman at this time, a Christian, but not a member of a Puritan church (McGregor 1996, 186). She shared the practice of midwifery with Anne Hutchinson, another colonial midwife who served the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which was under the leadership of Governor John Winthrop. During a period of great religious upheaval in the community, she attended a complicated birth, which led to suspicions of her involvement with witchcraft, though she was not formally charged (Hall 1991, 19). She was subsequently forbidden to practice midwifery and banished from her home. As a result, she moved to Rhode Island with her family. The extraordinary circumstances that affected the life of the midwife Jane Hawkins deserve close attention … “

“Preaching and History: The Audience of Ranulf Higden’s _Ars componendi sermones_ and _Polychronicon_” by Jane Beal

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My academic essay, “Preaching and History: The Audience of Ranulf Hidgen’s Ars componendi sermones and the Polychronicon,” now appears in Medieval Sermon Studies 62:1 (2018): 17-28.

ABSTRACT:

In his Ars praedicandi sermones, in traditional yet rich metaphoric language, Ranulf Higden compares Christ to a fountain, a shepherd, a rock, a lily, a rose, a violet, an elephant, a unicorn, and a youthful bridegroom wooing his beloved spouse. Ranulf encourages preachers to use such metaphors while using them himself, rendering his text a performed example of what he encourages. This text is clearly linked to two others: Ranulf’s Latin universal history, the Polychronicon, and John Trevisa’s English translation of it. In the Polychronicon, Ranulf relates the life of Christ, utilizing some of his own rhetorical suggestions from his preaching manual. He also depicts a cross-section of good and bad preachers, including Gregory, Wulfstan, Eustas, St Edmund, and one William Long- Beard and his kinsman, who exemplify (in different ways) the wisdom conveyed in Ranulf’s instruction in the Ars praedicandi. This essay suggests that the literary relationship between the preaching manual and the Polychronicon supplies additional support for the idea that the audience of the latter was not noblemen exclusively, but also clergymen who preached and had responsibility for the care of souls (cura animae).

Also available here… & here: 0 BEAL – Preaching and History – The Audience of Ranulf Higden’s _Ars componendi sermones_ and _Polychronicon_ (Published Version).

“In Memory of Ann Eliot: Colonial American Midwife” by Jane Beal

BEAL-AnnEliot-MT127 CVRMy essay, “In Memory of Ann Eliot: Colonial American Midwife,” appears in Midwifery Today 127 (Fall 2018): 20-22, in print and online.

EXCERPT: 

“Ann Eliot (born Hannah Mumford or Mountford) was a midwife in Roxbury, Massachusetts, just outside Boston, during the Colonial era in America. After she died on March 22, 1687, her family, friends, and neighbors commemorated her life by erecting a special monument for her. In a unanimous resolution, they voted to do so: “Mrs. Eliot, for the great service that she hath done this town, will be honored with a burial there.” (qtd. in Gregory). At the time of her death, she had attended more than 3,000 births …

… No scandal ever attached to her or her practice of midwifery. In fact, her work as a midwife and healthcare provider expanded into the area of fiduciary responsibility: eight families from the town of Roxbury trusted her to be the executor of their estates (Packard, qtd. in Whaley). So in addition to having attended the births of more than 3,000 babies, she also helped ensure for some of them their provision and future inheritance. When she died, at about the age of eighty-three, Ann Eliot’s loss was deeply felt and widely mourned. Her memory, however, was cherished.”

“O give yee thanks unto the Lord
because that good is hee;
because his loving kindness lasts
to perpetuitee.”

~ Psalm 107:1
(from The Bay Psalm Book,
trans. John Eliot, et al.)

“Remembering _The Forgetting Room_” by Jane Beal

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My essay, “Remembering The Forgetting Room,” now appears in The Remembered Arts Journal (Fall 2018) along with my original art collage, “Memory.”

EXCERPT:

“We often say in English, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” We don’t often realize that bridges come to us. We think we are moving, and bridges are stationary. But we carry our bridges in our hearts. Where we go, they go, and they are always with us—even if they are hidden under layers of paint or forgetfulness. In a spiritual sense, we stand on a bridge, over a high place, waiting for our destiny.”

“Who is Tom Bombadil?” by Jane Beal

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by kimberly80

My academic essay, “Who is Tom Bombadil? Interpreting the Light in Frodo Baggins and Tom Bombadil’s Role in the Healing of Traumatic Memory in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings,” now appears in The Journal of Tolkien Research 6 (2018): Iss. 1, Art. 1, 1-34.

ABSTRACT: 

In Rivendell, after Frodo has been attacked by Ringwraiths and is healing from the removal of the splinter from a Morgul-blade that had been making its way toward his heart, Gandalf regards Frodo and contemplates a “clear light” that is visible through Frodo to “eyes to see that can.” Samwise Gamgee later sees this light in Frodo when Frodo is resting in Ithilien. The first half of this essay considers questions about this light: how does Frodo become transparent, and why, and what is the nature of the light that fills him? As recourse to Tolkien’s letters shows, the light is related to the virtues of Frodo’s character: love, self-sacrifice, humility, perseverance. The light in Frodo also is related to the light in the Phial of Galadrial, which comes from the Earendil’s Silmaril set in the heavens above Middle-earth, which is called the Morning Star. Because “Morning Star” is a name for Jesus in the New Testament, the light within Frodo may be interpreted, symbolically, as the Christ-light.

The second half of this essay considers how this light was ignited in Frodo, specifically by asking: who is Tom Bombadil, and what does he have to do with the light inside of Frodo? The essay explores multiple explanations for the long-standing, critically-debated mystery of Tom Bombadil’s identity, ultimately showing that he must be interpreted at multiple levels of meaning simultaneously. Intriguingly, Tom Bombadil has parallels to the first Adam and the second Adam, Jesus, especially in his role as “Eldest” (or ab origine) and in his ability to bring light to Frodo in the grave of the barrow-wight, save him from death by his song, and heal him from spiritual “drowning” – a word that Tom uses to describe Frodo’s terrifying experience in the barrow and which relates to Frodo’s original childhood wound: the primal loss of his parents, who drowned in a tragic accident. When Frodo receives healing from this trauma, he is strengthened to endure what he later experiences on his quest to destroy the Ring.

 

 

New Essays in Midwifery Today

MT126(Summer2018)-CVR

My essays, “Supporting Sexual Abuse Survivors in Childbirth” and “Mary Hobry: A Midwife and a Murder Mystery in 17th C. London,” now appear in Midwifery Today 126 (Summer 2018), 24-24-25 and 48-50.

EXCERPT #1: 

“Not every woman can or will experience a birth that helps to facilitate the healing of past abuse. But as midwives, we can do our best to listen to women’s stories, respect their free will, and share the wisdom we have. Healing can come from the care we provide even when things do not go the way that women hoped. It takes a lot of love and patience in the process, and the work can be exhausting. But if the women are not giving up, then neither should we.”

EXCERPT #2:

“L’Estrange titled his short book, A Hellish Murder Committed by a French Midwife on the Body of her Husband, Jan. 27, 1688, for which she was arraigned at the Old Bailey, Feb. 22, 1687, and pleaded GUILTY, and the Day Following Received Sentence to be BURNT.It became the basis of other writings about Mary Hobry, including one poem by E. Settle and another by an anonymous poet. The latter poem versified all the details from the case in rhyming couplets; it was called “A Warning-Piece to All Married Men and Women, Being the Full Confession of Mary Hobry, the French Midwife, Who Murdered her Husband on the 17thof January, 1688 (as also the Cause Thereof).” The poem treats the tragedy as a moral parable, beginning with the lines:

All you that married men and women be
Give ear unto this woeful tragedy,
That now befell a Frenchman and his wife,
Who lived together in continual strife (lines 1-4).

The poem ends: “She now is burned, and begs of all mankind / And women too, Wisdom by her to find” (lines 164-65).”

 

“Tolkien, Eucatastrophe, and the Rewriting of Medieval Legend” by Jane Beal

Screen Shot 2018-05-25 at 8.19.16 PMMy essay, “Tolkien, Eucatastrophe, and the Re-writing of Medieval Legend,” appears in Mallorn: The Journal of the Tolkien Society 58 (Winter 2017).

ABSTRACT: 

Using comparative literary analysis, this essay examines three case studies from J.R.R. Tolkien’s oeuvre, in which Tolkien practiced eucatastrophic rewriting: his folk-tale, “Sellic Spell,” in which he re-creates the Old English poem Beowulf; his poem, “Princess Mee,” in which he re-envisions aspects of the myth of Narcissus and the Middle English dream vision poem, Pearl; and the character of Éowyn from The Lord of the Rings, in which he re-imagines the fate of Brynhild, a shield-maiden and valkyrie from Norse legend. In each case, Tolkien rewrites the original so that sorrow is transformed into happiness in Tolkien’s new versions. As part of the analysis of these transformations, this essay also considers a possible personal motivation as well as a larger purpose behind Tolkien’s artistic choices: his relationship to his beloved wife, Edith, and a desire to convey to others the hope he found in his own Christian faith.

  • This essay also appears here.

“Mapping Desire in Chaucer’s ‘To Rosemounde,’ Shakespeare’s ‘Rape of Lucrece,’ and Donne’s ‘A Valediction: Of Weeping'” by Jane Beal

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My academic essay, “Mapping Desire in Chaucer’s ‘To Rosemounde,’ Shakespeare’s ‘Rape of Lucrece,” and Donne’s ‘A Valediction: Of Weeping,'” now appears in Peregrinations: A Journal of Medieval Art and Architecture 6:3 (2018): 105-29.

EXCERPT: 

“The poets Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, and John Donne were aware of the existence of medieval world maps. Evidence from their writings clearly shows that the poets were familiar with the genre and had seen cartographic examples of it. They may also have read prose descriptions of the whole world that sometimes journeyed with, and sometimes journeyed separately from, cartographic mappaemundi. The poets each used such maps metaphorically in their poems about women, juxtaposing woman- as-map in their reader-viewer’s inner eye in poetic contexts they created to represent male desire. That desire is figured in a would-be lover’s lament that turns to satiric complaint in Chaucer’s “To Rosemounde” and in a conqueror’s lust that turns to violent assault in Shakespeare’s “Rape of Lucrece,” while in Donne’s “A Valediction: Of Weeping,” it is expressed with tender empathy in an increasingly complex, metaphorical meditation on the tears shed by both lover and beloved on an occasion of parting.1 In order to understand this thematic sexualization of the mappaemundi, it is relevant first to consider the contemplative and educational functions of world maps in medieval Christian culture.”

“Ending Dystopia: The Feminist Critique of Culture in Suzanne Collins’ _Hunger Games_ Trilogy” by Jane Beal

WorldsGoneAwry-EssaysonDystopianFictionMy chapter, “Ending Dystopia: The Feminist Critique of Culture in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy” now appears in Worlds Gone Awry: Essays on Dystopian Fiction, eds. John Han, C. Clark Triplett, and Ashley G. Anthony (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2018), 122-138.

EXCERPT:

More’s purpose in Utopia was not, of course, to inform his highly educated, Latinate, mostly male readers about a “good place,” a utopian country in the New World, but rather to critique a dystopian country in his own Old World: England.

Virtually all subsequent utopian/dystopian fiction in the western tradition is generically defined by elements found in More’s Utopia, and feminist utopian writings and contemporary feminist dystopian fiction are no exceptions. The later development of the genre branches out from its roots (Christian humanist satire), producing distinctly different fruit (literary works), because it hybridizes the tree (the genre). Whereas More’s Utopia, like Platonic dialogues, is a conversation between men, feminist dystopias expand the conversation that critiques culture by:

  • internalizing it in their female protagonists, where its very interiority can give women power to resist male-dominated cultural forces of violence, deception, manipulation, corruption, and destruction in the dystopian environment;
  • externalizing and articulating it between female as well as male characters;
  • making part of it solely between women in their texts;
  • focusing it on the human rights of women, especially the right to life, the right to freedom of the will, mind, heart, and body, and the right to self-determination in their relationships and roles in the world;
  • and emphasizing the importance of alliance between women and children, women and men, women and women, women and the environment, and women and sources of cultural power in their world.

Authors of feminist dystopian fiction frequently take as a given that the world their female protagonists live in is being represented to those women as utopian, as a “good place” that is culturally and politically organized for their benefit, but they emphasize in no uncertain terms that the world is in fact dystopian. They show that the male-dominated cultural forces in their fictions consistently seek to exploit women’s bodies, in violation of their will, at the expense of their minds and to the detriment of their emotional wellbeing.  They do not hesitate to show how some female characters living in dystopia accept these forces while others actually become perpetuators of them, and they may also highlight how male characters are not only oppressors but may be oppressed by the mechanisms of injustice in dystopia.

But in response to the “big lie” that women are living in utopia, when the actual conditions of their existence are mercilessly dystopian, authors send their female protagonists on a journey of personal and relational growth.  The journey inevitably includes acquisition of new knowledge, new strength, and new, previously unknown, and virtually unimaginable freedom.This trajectory is especially clear when reading the endings of feminist dystopian fictions.

Because feminist dystopian fiction is very much in keeping not only with utopian satire but also with the fairy-tale tradition, it engages the human psychological realities of hope and fear, but often—quite purposefully—without the consolation of a traditional “happy ending.”  This raises a key question:  since the endings are clearly not wish-fulfillment fantasies, intended for the temporary satisfaction of readers, what purposes are being accomplished by the endings of feminist dystopian fictions?  To explore the question, my chapter focuses on the ending of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy (2008-2010).  As we shall see, her fiction makes new use of the generic elements of the utopian satirical tradition—classical learning, Christian ethics, and the discovery of a new world—in a “bad place” where the development of the psychological complexity of her female protagonist on her journey drives the critique of the real dystopia: the postmodern world inhabited by the author and her readers at the turn of the twenty-first century.

 

“‘Desco da parto’: The Birth Tray and Its Cultural Significance in Renaissance Italy” by Jane Beal

MidwiferyToday125My essay “‘Desco da parto’: The Birth Tray and its Cultural Significance in Renaissance Italy,” now appears in Midwifery Today 125 (Spring 2018): 26-28.

ABSTRACT: 

In this essay, I describe the practical and decorative use of the desco da parto or birth tray in Renaissance Italy. After the Black Death, birth trays were used from 1370 to the third quarter of the sixteenth century to serve the mother’s first postpartum meal: They commemorated the life of mother and baby kept safe in childbirth. The deschi featured both secular and sacred scenes, painted in tempera, with gilded borders. They could be round, twelve-sided or sixteen-sided. After serving their primary purpose, they could later be hung upon walls in family homes and passed from one generation to the next.

IMAGES OF DESCHI

UNI205s1

Triumph of Chastity

birth tray presented to Lucrezia di Giovanni Tornbuoni,
mother of Lorenzo de’Medici, “the Magnificent”

Other biblical, allegorical or mythological desci images:

 

 

“The Lais and Fables of Marie de France” by Jane Beal and Michael J. Hartwell

MariedeFranceMy co-authored essay, “The Lais and Fables of Marie de France,” now appears in Major Authors and Movements in British Literature (Gale, 2017), edited by Kirilka Stavreva, accessible through The Gale Researcher. 

Abstract:

“This article provides a brief introduction to the poetic works of Marie de France including her lais, fables, dream vision of Saint Patrick’s Purgatory, and hagiographical poem about Saint Audrey. A survey of Marie’s literary sources and immediate cultural context is followed by a discussion of the role of magic, romance, and gender in her poems. After a look at the major social and political themes of Marie’s writing, the article concludes with an examination of her influence on later medieval literature.”

APPROACHES TO TEACHING THE MIDDLE ENGLISH PEARL edited by Jane Beal and Mark Bradshaw Busbee

My co-edited volume, Approaches to Teaching the Middle English Pearl, is now in print from the Modern Language Association.

Approaches-to-Teaching-the-Middle-English-Pearl-cover_bookstore_large

Abstract

The moving, richly allegorical poem Pearl was written in Middle English by the anonymous who likely also penned Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. In it, a man in a garden, grieving the loss of a beloved pearl, dreams of the Pearl-Maiden, who appears across a stream. She teaches him the nature of innocence, God’s grace, meekness, and purity. Though granted a vision of the New Jerusalem by the Pearl-Maiden, the dreamer is pained to discover that he cannot cross the stream himself and join her in bliss—at least not yet. This extraordinary poem is a door into late medieval poetics and Catholic piety.

Part 1 of this volume, “Materials,” introduces instructors to the many resources available for teaching the canonical yet challenging Pearl, including editions, translations, and scholarship on the poem as well as its historical context. The essays in part 2, “Approaches,” offer instructors tools for introducing students to critical issues associated with the poem, such as its authorship, sources and analogues, structure and language, and relation to other works of its time. Contributors draw on interdisciplinary approaches to outline ways of teaching Pearl in a variety of classroom contexts.

Table of Contents

  • With many thanks to my co-editor, our editors at the MLA, and all of our contributors!
  • To learn more about “Pearl,” see Medieval Pearl.

“Jane Wright: A Newly Certified Midwife in London (ca. 1798)”

MT124 (Winter2017) - CVRMy biographical essay, “Jane Wright: A Newly Certified Midwife in London (ca. 1798),” now appears in Midwifery Today 124 (Winter 2017): 24-26.

EXCERPT:

In 1798, the same year that renowned English Romantic poets William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge published their Lyrical Ballads, Jane Wright published her own unique and valuable work: “An essay to instruct women how to protect themselves in a state of pregnancy from the disorders incident to that period or how to cure them. Also some observations on the treatment of children which, if attended to, may ward off dangerous diseases and prevent future evils” (London, 1798). As her title suggests, Wright wanted to empower women to prevent or treat their diseases themselves when needed in pregnancy, and she wanted to teach them to better care well for their children when those children were ill …

In the fifth section of her “Essay,” Wright includes her thoughts on the essential equality of men and women in their social roles. In so doing, she adds, “Authors of the most eminent abilities, after a comparative review of both sexes, have candidly declared, upon the whole, we [women] are by no means inferior or rather we are superior in acting our parts in all the concerns of life” (31). Wright appears to be thinking of one author in particular here:  Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Right of Woman, which was published just six years earlier in 1792.

Wright’s thoughts on the education of women bear a striking resemblance to those of Mary Wollstonecraft expressed in the Vindication. Although Wright appreciates accomplished young ladies who can sing and dance and who inevitably have good fashion sense, she says:

“I am sometimes sorry to find that these accomplished young ladies are ignorant of the grammar of their own language, they are deficient in understanding the first principles of virtue, and that they have no instruction on the holy Scriptures …If I dared, as a female writer, I would venture to recommend to young ladies of fashion some attention to history, geography, botany, natural history, moral and natural philosophy, etc..” (33)

The benefits of such learning to young women would include mental occupation, agreeable conversations on any subject, the admiration of their acquaintances, and the adoration of their husbands as well as more graceful actions, pleasing beauty and rational religion because it would open their eyes “to the power and goodness of the Almighty in all his works” (33). So Wright’s “Essay,” written to help pregnant women ease their discomforts and find a good midwife, ends with a somewhat surprising emphasis on the importance of a broad general education for all women.

In addition to her familiarity with Wollstonecraft’s argument in her Vindication, Wright later may have become aware of Wollstonecraft’s personal obstetrical history as well. For interestingly, Wright’s predecessor in the position of matron at the Westminster Lying-In Hospital, Mrs. Blenkinsop, had been a midwife-caregiver who made several prenatal visits to Wollstonecraft during her pregnancy with her second daughter, Mary Shelley, the famous author of the novel Frankenstein and the wife of Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Mrs. Blenkinsop and Dr. Poignand cared for Wollstonecraft in the postpartum period when she suffered a retained placenta after the birth her daughter. The necessary manual extraction led to hemorrhage and infection, and Wollstonecraft died in 1797, just eleven days after giving birth (Badger 91-92n).

Mary Wollstonecraft’s ideas, however, did not die, but apparently lived on in the midwife Jane Wright, who subsequently encouraged the holistic education of women as part of her midwifery practice.

“Judith Wilks: The Queen’s Trusty Midwife” by Jane Beal

MT123My biographical essay on Judith Wilks, royal midwife to Queen Mary of Modena, now appears in Midwifery Today 123 (Fall 2017), 48-51.

EXCERPT:

“When the Catholic Queen Mary of Modena, wife of King James II of England, gave birth on June 10, 1688 to a son, James Francis Edward, the Prince of Wales and heir presumptive to the throne, a vicious rumor sped throughout predominantly Protestant England: that Queen Mary’s own child was stillborn and that the boy presented to the public was a spurious changeling child who had been brought to the birthing room in a warming pan (Haile 190; cf. Corp 184, 190, 200).

This accusation outraged the Queen’s midwife, Judith Wilks, who had delivered the prince. She wrote a letter to her cousin, Mrs. Winifred Wilks, which was later published, that provides a historical document attesting to the legitimate birth and the midwife’s own strong feelings of loyalty to the queen, love for the newborn baby, and fury at the wide-spread slander (Wilks 1-2).

To better understand this letter, it is important first to understand the life of the queen whom Judith Wilks served as a midwife and the historical tensions between Catholics and Protestants that were so exacerbated in England in the seventeenth century.”

“Joana Torrellas and the Spanish Inquisition”

MT121-Mothering-Spring2017My essay, “Joana Torrellas and the Spanish Inquisition,” now appears in Midwifery Today 121 (Spring 2017), 42-43.

EXCERPT:

Joana Torrellas was not a witch. She was a Catholic midwife from Valencia, Spain, who lived during the fifteenth century. She married and had five children, three sons and two daughters. After being widowed, she moved to Teruel to live with her daughter, who was married to the town jailer, Joan Gil.

As part of her normal practice of midwifery, Joana recited prayers, such as the Prayer of St. Cyprian, which were contained in a small book that had been given to her by her mother-in-law (who was also a midwife). Joana usually placed nómina (literally, “the names”), a necklace with a pendant on it or in which were written the names of Christ, around the necks of laboring mothers, and she asked for the blessing of the Virgin Mary during the birth. When a woman was about to birth the placenta, she would place a book with a crucifix in it under the woman’s feet in order to help facilitate delivery.

This kind of “spiritual midwifery” was apparently welcome in Valencia, where Joana was from, for it occasioned no scandal. But in Teruel, where Joana was an outsider, her normal practice might have been unusual …”

 

“Floreta d’Ays” by Jane Beal

mt120-winter-2016My biographical essay, “Floreta d’Ays:  The Trial of a Medieval Jewish Midwife of Marseille, France” now appears in Midwifery Today 120 (Winter 2016), 46-48.

Abstract:

Floreta d’Ays was a 15th c. Jewish midwife who lived in Marseille, France. After a maternal death caused by a massive post-partum hemorrhage (PPH), at which Floreta had been present, an anti-Semitic prosecutor accused Floreta of deliberately killing the mother. This is the first known case of “medical malpractice” brought against a midwife. However, careful study of the extant trial record suggests that Floreta was actually attempting the manual extraction of a retained placenta, after which she tried to stop the PPH with bi-manual compression of the uterus. Rather than trying to kill the mother, Floreta was actually trying to save her. However, because the court showed virtually no understanding of the art and science of midwifery, and because the attempt to save the mother had not been successful, Floreta was forced to defend herself by simply denying the charges rather than by explaining the science behind her actions. While the final outcome is unknown, it is clear that Floreta d’Ays actively resisted the accusations brought against her with the help of six lawyers, three Jews and three Christians, and objected to the court’s plan to torture her bodily in order to elicit a confession.

“Stop Cutting: The Right to Bodily Integrity” by Jane Beal

mt120-winter-2016My essay, “Stop Cutting: The Right to Bodily Integrity,” now appears in Midwifery Today 120 (Winter 2016), 38-39.

Abstract:

In this essay, I begin by recalling a certified nurse-midwife who had the responsibility for suturing 3o young girls who were ritually cut in West Africa. Following the World Heath Organization (WHO), I define the four recognized types of female genital mutilation and their complications, note that unnecessary episiotomies and cesareans could be considered types 5 and 6, and review the beliefs in developed and developing countries that lead to the physically and psychologically harmful practices of cutting / FGM. I then discuss effective means of preventing this practice as well as the value of cross-cultural partnerships that intervene when and where necessary. I conclude by giving an overview of the role midwives can play as educators and healers, noting that midwives who know how to suture all kinds of cuts and tears (not just 1st and 2nd degree tears) can be especially helpful when needed.

“Ruth Stone” by Jane Beal

Screen Shot 2016-11-10 at 6.55.40 PM.jpgMy new biographical essay, “Ruth Stone,” now appears in American Writers, Vol. XXVII, ed. Jay Parini (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2017), 249-65.

Excerpt:

“With three daughters to raise on her own, Stone began a series of poetry residencies and visiting teaching positions at a number of colleges and universities across the United States, beginning with a two-year poetry fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute for Independent Study of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. When she was not teaching, she would return with her family to a farmhouse she had purchased in Goshen, Vermont. Her itinerant life ended after twenty-five years when she was awarded tenure at the State University of New York at Binghamton in her seventies. After her retirement, she received an honorary doctorate from Middlebury College in Vermont. She published thirteen print collections of poetry in her lifetime and received many awards, including a Pushcart Prize and the National Book Award; her book What Love Comes To: New and Selected Poems was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Her verses express, with often acerbic wit, what has been called her “tragicomic vision”: an unrelenting and incisive commentary on poverty, loss, the human body, relationships between men and women, odd characters on the edges of American communities, old age, the universe, and poetry itself. At times bawdy, at times profound, her poems never fail to make a sharp point.”

“In the Next Galaxy”

Things will be different.
No one will lose their sight,
their hearing, their gallbladder.
It will be all Catskills with brand
new wrap-around verandas.
The idea of Hitler will not
have vibrated yet.
While back here,
they are still cleaning out
pockets of wrinkled
Nazis hiding in Argentina.
But in the next galaxy,
certain planets will have true
blue skies and drinking water.

Ruth Stone

 

“Patience on Pilgrimage: Job in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales” by Jane Beal

brill-job-2016My new book chapter, “Patience on Pilgrimage: Job in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales” now appears in the Brill Companion to Job in the Middle Ages, edited by Franklin T. Harkins and Aaron Canty.

Excerpt: 

“In the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer invokes the name of Job in the Wife of Bath’s Tale, Clerk’s Tale, Tale of Melibee, Friar’s Tale, and Parson’s Tale. In each case, Job serves as an archetypal, almost allegorical figure of the virtue of patience or long-suffering; he is also associated with the related virtues of humility and contrition. He participates in a wider network of meaning that connects him to issues of good moral character in marital conflicts, deserved and undeserved suffering inflicted by devils, and the penitence appropriate to people in general and pilgrims in particular. To understand Chaucer’s use of Job’s figural power, it is important to examine the biblical and extra-biblical textual milieu that influenced Job’s reception in the Middle Ages, Job’s multiple appearances in the Canterbury Tales, and the overall role that Job—and the virtue of patience—plays on the pilgrimage to Canterbury.”

“Reading in a Roundtable, Socratic Dialogue, and Other Strategies for Teaching SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT” by Jane Beal

GGK_94.jpgMy pedagogical essay, “Reading in a Roundtable, Socratic Dialogue, and Other Strategies for Teaching Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” now appears in SMART: Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching 23:2 (Fall 2016): 73-100.

Excerpt:

“The lai of Lanval thus shows the complex nature of medieval literary depictions of love in a courtly context as well as how very important chivalric courtesy really is in that context. Just as importantly, our discussion of Lanval introduces the character and reputation of Gawain, “the knight of courtesy,” who appears as Lanval’s friend in the romance and aids him in his difficulties. Therefore, students have a foundation upon which we can build as we discuss the following key questions about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in our roundtable:

  • What codes govern Gawain’s life, and how do they come into conflict in this poem?
  • What games are played in this poem, and how do they test Gawain’s character?
  • When Gawain makes each of his confessions in the poem (there are three), what level of self-awareness of his choices does he show, especially in relation to the codes governing his actions? What does he confess, what level of responsibility does he take for his actions, and why (and how much) does it matter within the world of the poem?
  • How might we, as readers, interpret the conclusion of this poem, and what might be its relevance for a medieval audience and for us?

These questions are made available to students so they are familiar with them and have reflected on them during their reading prior to coming to class.

In the remainder of this essay, I will give an overview of the contextual information I usually share with my students and the key insights I attempt to evoke from them in response to the questions about the poem. The categories for consideration include the following: (1) the codes of chivalry, courtly love, and Christianity; (2) gaming for glory—the beheading of the Green Knight; (3) Gawain’s identity revealed in the symbolism of his shield; (4) gaming for glory—the exchange of winnings; and 5) Gawain’s spiritual growth—the confessions to the priest, the Green Knight, and King Arthur’s court. My purpose in writing is to give ideas to other teachers who may wish to teach Sir Gawain and the Green Knight using roundtable discussion, Socratic dialogue and other pedagogical strategies. I have found that exploratory discussion, enriched by informal but informative lecture, becomes more meaningful when the world-views of students are compared to the world-views evidenced in medieval poetry. The students tend to learn much more than they expect, and sometimes their views are changed or subtly shifted.”

“Martha Mears: Nature’s Midwife” by Jane Beal

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-12-43-30-amMy essay on Martha Mears — a nature-loving, bird-watching, poetry-quoting, 18th c. English midwife — now appears in Midwifery Today (Fall 2016).

Excerpt:

“Mears places a high value on cultivating the emotional well-being of women during pregnancy. In her third essay, devoted entirely to this subject, she writes that the prayer of the wise is ‘the enjoyment of a sound mind in a sound body’ (26). She observes the connection between a woman’s emotional health and the first learning experiences of her unborn child. Drawing on the author Strabo, quoted in Chavalier Ramsay, she specifically adds the authority of the ancients to her argument:

‘In some of those valuable remains of eastern antiquities, which even the withering hand of time has delighted to spare, we are told that the Magi began, in some sort, the education of their children before their birth. While their wives were pregnant, they took care to keep them in tranquility and perpetual chearfulness, by sweet and innocent amusements, to the end, that, from the mother’s womb, the fruit might receive no impressions but what were pleasing, mild, and agreeable to order. The justness of the principle on which they proceeded is fully confirmed by the history of the whole human race, and certainly deserves the serious attention of parents …’ (26-27, italics in the original).

Mears goes on to attack the problem of ‘one of first and most prevailing passions in the breasts of pregnant women’ (27): fear. She observes that ‘the happiness of becoming mothers is sourly checked by preposterous ideas of danger. They take alarm at the change, at the novelty of their feelings, and the few instances they may have known of miscarriage, or of death, outweigh in the quivering scale of fancy the numbers not to be counted of persons in the like condition, who enjoy both then and afterwards a greater degree of health than they ever before experienced’ (27). Mears is all for rooting out fear by knowledge and hope, which she calls ‘the balm and life-blood of the soul’ (28), and with the help of a husband’s love. These are her answers to fear and melancholy.”