University of Portsmouth's History Blog

Introducing the Disrupted Authority Project

By Jessica Dyson & Katy Gibbons

Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith, her Maid and Holofernes’ Head, 1613, Palazzo Pitti, Florence

Members of the History and English Literature teams at the University of Portsmouth are excited to be launching “Disrupted Authority” – a research project that focuses on the early modern period (1450-1700) and brings together the work of English Literature’s Dr Jessica Dyson and Dr Bronwen Price, and History’s Dr Maria Cannon, Dr Katy Gibbons and Dr Fiona McCall.

This is a particularly timely project in the light of the current shifting and unpredictable political landscape. The key themes of this project – authority, power, gender, religion –  invite comparisons with how people and groups today understand and represent their positions and rights within political and social structures. The early modern period has never looked more relevant!

Common to all our research is an awareness of the significance of the language used to describe authorities and those acting outside or against them.  As current political discourse demonstrates, words matter.  This project will explore how language itself, particularly relating to madness, martyrdom and misogyny, holds the potential to disrupt and construct authority.

The project is interested in the ways in which emotion, language, behaviour, performance, and writing set out to, or inadvertently, disrupt dominant modes of thought, governance and religious belief and, in turn, helped to shape authority in these areas. Bronwen’s research on the disruptions of women’s writing to the traditional authoritative modes of thought and production offers a literary counterpart to Katy and Fiona’s historical consideration of  gender and religious authority at a parish, national and international level. Maria’s work on family structures and household authority aligns with Jessica’s work on theatrical representation authorities, as both consider ways in which emotions can be seen to disrupt or reclaim authority.

We’re looking to reach outside the University of Portsmouth to build a network of scholars working on early modern disrupted authority, and work with non-HEI partners to bring our research and its contemporary relevance to a wider audience. We’ll be running a series of workshops and networking events to facilitate these interactions – details to follow. Key outcomes of the project will include an open access database, ‘Religious Conflict in the Parish, 1645-1662’, which will make available searchable data drawn from legal records.

If you’d like to take part in our 2020 conference, ‘Disruptions and Continuities in gender roles and authority 1450-1750’, please see the cfp here.  Future events will be announced here.

If you’re interested in networking with us, please get in touch either via our twitter account below or email Jessica.Dyson@port.ac.uk or Katy.Gibbons@port.ac.uk.

Follow us on Twitter: @AuthDisrupted

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