UPDATES

“O Reddish Egret!” by Jane Beal

My haiku, “O Reddish Egret!,” now appears in The Asahi Haikuist (16 November 2018).

O Reddish Egret!

dancing free in the dawn-light

wild in the wetlands

jb

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Haiku by Jane Beal

Another of my haiku, written after birding the Bolsa Chica Wetlands near Huntington Beach, now appears in the Asahi Haikuist (2 November 2018).

Great Blue Heron stands

on one leg in the water

morning yoga

jb

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“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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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.

“Lúthien’s Lullaby for Dior” by Jane Beal

Screen Shot 2018-05-25 at 8.18.38 PMMy poem, “Lúthien’s Lullaby for Dior,” appears in Mallorn: The Journal of the Tolkien Society 57 (Winter 2016).

Lúthien’s Lullaby
for Dior

I sing a song for you, my son,
Dior, darling Eluchíl, future King of Doriath!
I sing a song of love for you, my son –

Before you, before me, there was my mother,
Melian the Maia, who lived in Valinor,
and served the Valar, and saw the light of the Two Trees
with her own far-seeing eyes.
In the gardens of lovely Lórien,
she took on the form of the fairest Eldar
and taught the nightingales to sing.
She was standing in a glade open to the stars
when my father, Elwë Singollo, came fast to her,
and took her hand, so that, with that touch,
they were both enchanted and stood for years together
as the trees grew around them and the stars wheeled overhead.

I sing a song for you, my son,
Dior, darling Eluchíl, future King of Doriath!
I sing a song of love for you, my son –

Before you were born, I was born,
in the Kingdom of a Thousand Caves, in mighty Menegroth,
in Beleriand, protected by the Girdle of Melian,
and they called me the fairest of the Children of Eru Iluvatar.
I grew and sang and danced, free in my forest of trees,
to the sound of a secret flute, and there, your father
found me, as my mother knew he would, at moonrise,
but I vanished, even as he called me Tinúviel, daughter of twilight.
By doom and by destiny, oath-bound and enchanted,
we two became one on a journey to do justice:
I shifted shape to set your father free, and he
cut the Silmaril from Morgoth’s Iron Crown.

I sing a song for you, my son,
Dior, darling Eluchíl, future King of Doriath!
I sing a song of love for you, my son –

Now I know the future, and the hard sorrow that it holds,
as I look ahead through a veil, like my mother before me,
and I see the wide waterfall of Lanthir Lamath,
and Nimloth, your bride, and Elured and Elurin, your mighty sons,
and Elwing, your darling daughter, the Star-Spray of Night.
I see the defeat of the Dwarves, at your deft hand,
and Nauglamir – ah, Nauglamir! – the necklace you will bring me
to avenge my father’s death, shining with the Silmaril
your father cut from Morgoth’s Iron Crown,
so that I will wear it and so that the Land of the Dead Who Live,
and even this green isle of Tol Galen,
will be filled, in the new near, with the last light of Yavanna’s Two Trees. 

One day, your father will die in his last battle,
and I, too, will die, for I have Chosen,
but you will live until you are slain
and descend into the Halls of Mandos.

I sing a song for you, my son,
Dior, darling Eluchíl, future King of Doriath!
I sing a song of love for you, my son,
chosen before Time for the triune blood
that flows like a fountain of hope through your veins
from the far-seeing Maiar, the immortal Eldar,
and the swift Edain, your father’s people,
the ones who live and die,
for a doom Eru Iluvatar deems,
and I know, my sweet son, lying innocent in my arms,
that you bear within your beautiful body
the whole future of Middle-earth.

  • This poem was commissioned by Eileen Marie Moore, Professor of Music at Cleveland State University, who set it to music and performed it at “The Tolkien Unbound” session of the 51st International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in May 2016.

“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.

 

Review of Elizabeth Solopova’s _The Wycliffite Bible: Origin, History, and Interpretation_ by Jane Beal

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My review of Elizabeth Solopova’s edited volume, The Wycliffite Bible: Origin, History, and Interpretation (Brill, 2017), now appears in Mediaevistik 30 (2018): 446-48.

EXCERPT: 

The Wycliffite Bible (WB) is the first complete Bible in English, extant in over 250 manuscript copies, and it had an extensive influence on late-medieval and early modern English culture. Translated from the Latin Vulgate, it consists of biblical books in prose and verse along with academic prologues. It is extant in two versions, the earlier (EV) and the later (LV), which often were transmitted with commentaries as well as liturgical and exegetical aids. Elizabeth Solopova’s edited volume contributes significantly to the scholarship of the late medieval English Bible already produced by Henry Ansgar Kelly (The Middle English Bible: A Reassessment, 2016), Mary Dove (The First English Bible, 2007, and The Earliest Advocates of the English Bible, 2011), and Anne Hudson (The Premature Reformation, 1988), work which is well-contextualized by broader studies on the medieval Bible by Frans van Lière (An Introduction to the Medieval Bible, 2014), Susan Boyton, and Diane Reilly (The Practice of the Bible in the Middle Ages, 2011), and the quintessential Beryl Smalley (The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages, 2nd ed., 1989).

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

 

“‘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.”

UNCAGED by Jane Beal

My new collection of poems
about birding and the spiritual life:

BEAL-Uncaged-BkCvr

UNCAGED
hard-copy * read online

WHAT NEVER FAILS

We went to the water
to see the Pelican –

the one, they say, who stabs her breast
and feeds her young with blood (like Christ),

but there was no bird like that
on the little islands by the pier.

There were Western Gulls instead,
crying out like Alcyone for Ceys,

flying over us like the ragged mists
of dreams we dream at dawn

and, waking, find
have told us the truth.

We were standing close together, just above
the water, like the Light Princess and her Prince,

when I noticed the cliff swallows
darting over the waves, under the pier

where they have hidden their nests
and are feeding the future

with a constant love
that never fails.

jb

 

“Christina of Markyate” by Jane Beal

BWS24-CVR-ChristinaofMarkyateMy biographical essay, “Christina of Markyate,” now appears in British Writers Supplement,Vol. 24, ed. Jay Parini (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale/Cenage Learning, 2018), 59-73.

EXCERPT:

“Born into an ambitious Anglo-Saxon family in Huntingdon, England, not long after the Norman Conquest of 1066, Christina of Markyate was a spiritually-minded child who grew up to resist the marriage her family had planned for her and devote herself instead to a chaste life as a religious recluse and, later, prioress of Markyate. Like other medieval English women writers, such as Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe, her autobiographical reflections were shared orally with an amanuensis who preserved them for her, their religious communities, and future readers. A monk of St. Albans Abbey copied Christina’s hagiographical Life in the fourteenth-century manuscript, Cotton Tiberius E1, which was lost for many centuries. It was damaged in an eighteenth-century fire, and only rediscovered, transcribed, translated, edited, and published by C.H. Talbot in 1959. In addition to this rich, textual resource, two other textual sources recall Christina Markyate’s special existence: the Gesta Abbatum, a chronicle of St. Albans Abbey compiled in the 1250s, which mentions her, and the St. Albans Psalter, a richly illuminated manuscript which was altered for her personal use.”

“Destiny” by Jane Beal

ContemporaryPoetry.jpgMy poem, “Destiny,” now appears in the poetry anthology, Contemporary Poetry, Vol. 4, edited by Pradeep Chaswal and Deepak Chaswal (2017), 24-26.

DESTINY

I feel
blown away
like a dry leaf.

Now the rain begins
to fall

on my crackling
skin, so that it softens,
and I cling to the loam
dark as night
beneath me.

I feel
myself
disintegrating,
becoming one with the dirt,
sinking into the earth.

I feel the tender, slender roots
from a nearby patch of grass
reaching into me –

I feel
a dandelion seed.

What will we become,
this tiny seed and me,
entwining in the dark
under the earth
where no one else can see?

When the rain stops,
when my former shape
is unrecognizable,
when I am spread out
and taken in,

when I can’t speak
in the usual way, when the vocal-chord veins
in my skin can’t be played
like a harp, by the wind, the wind I love,
the wind I remember so well,

when I grow
through the new life
of a flower
pushing herself
through the soil to the sun,

opening her green self
to become her yellow self,
feeling the light
to transform into her white self,
clean and pure –

who will I be?
Will the wind come back
and blow through me,
scattering me again,
for the sake of someone else’s wish?

Jane Beal