About the Author
For more than thirty-five years, I guided college readers through some of the most well-known texts of the Western literary canon: The Iliad, Beowulf, Dante's Divine Comedy, the sonnets of Wyatt and Surrey, Shakespeare's plays, Milton's Paradise Lost. I was not always successful—one memorable student, encountering Beowulf for the first time, told me that she found him to be as "loathsome" as the monster Grendel. Even so, that unfortunate experience didn't deter her from taking another class where we read Christine de Pizan's The Book of the City of Ladies together. My Beowulf-loathing student suddenly fell in love with medieval literature.
As this student's response shows, newly rediscovered works by women writers have changed the discipline of English literature, and I've enjoyed teaching a number of courses that incorporated these texts, including "Five Feminist Classics," "Medieval Women Writers," "Renaissance Women as Readers and Writers," and "Reading Women's Worlds," a course that grew into a book. Along with my students, I've read and enjoyed the lyrics of Sappho, the prison writing of Perpetua of Carthage, the sparkling romances of Marie de France, the spiritual writings of mystics from Hildegard of Bingen to Teresa of Ávila, the love lyrics of Lady Mary Wroth, and the witty, gender-bending comedies of Margaret Cavendish.
My own research spans these same two poles. I have written both traditional political history of the reign of Henry VIII as well as a counternarrative of that history, focusing on women, politics, and power in the sixteenth century. I explored the theme of women writers imagining "rooms of their own," I've examined contemporary issues in a series of personal essays on women, gender, and popular culture, and I have published editions of two of Margaret Cavendish's plays as well as editions of Mary Astell's two extraordinary feminist polemics.
But after decades as a college professor, I retired. While I am no longer preparing for classes, grading stacks of papers, and going to endless meetings, I am not done with writing, and with On Paradise Row, my first novel, I am hoping to connect with readers who might be interested in meeting one of the most remarkable women I encountered in all my my years of research, reading, and teaching.