Erler, Mary C. 1937–

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Erler, Mary C. 1937–

(Mary Carpenter Erler)

PERSONAL:

Born November 15, 1937, in Tiffin, OH; daughter of Robert Charles and Alice Regina Carpenter; married Robert John Erler III, September 21, 1962; children: two. Education: St. Mary's College, B.A., 1959; University of Chicago, M.A., 1963, Ph.D., 1981.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Department of English, Fordham University, 441 E. Fordham Rd., Bronx, NY 10458-5149. E-mail—erle[email protected]

CAREER:

University of Texas, Austin, instructor, 1966-67; Fordham University, Bronx, NY, 1980—, began as instructor, currently professor of English.

MEMBER:

Modern Language Association, Medieval Academy of America, Renaissance Society of America, Early Book Society.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Newberry Library grant, 1981; National Endowment for the Humanities and Records of Early English Drama Project grant, 1982-83; American Philosophical Society grant, 1985; John Rylands Research Institute grant, 1990; Renaissance Society of America grant, 1992; Folger Shakespeare Library grant, 1997.

WRITINGS:

(Editor, with Maryanne Kowaleski) Women and Power in the Middle Ages, University of Georgia Press (Atlanta, GA), 1988.

(Coeditor) Poems of Cupid, God of Love, Leiden, 1991.

(Editor) Robert Copland: Poems, University of Toronto Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1993.

Women, Reading, and Piety in Late Medieval England, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2002.

(Editor, with Maryanne Kowaleski) Gendering the Master Narrative: Women and Power in the Middle Ages, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 2003.

(Compiler, with Lotte Hellinga) James Moran, Wynken de Worde, Father of Fleet Street with preface by John Dreyfus, Oak Knoll Press (New Castle, DE), 2003.

(Editor) Records of Early English Drama: Ecclesiastical London, University of Toronto Press (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2008.

Contributor to Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, Volume 3: 1400-1557, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1999. Contributor to journals.

SIDELIGHTS:

Mary C. Erler is a professor of English at Fordham University whose research interests are medieval and early modern literature, women's reading and book ownership, and early English printing. Among her books are Women and Power in the Middle Ages; Women, Reading, and Piety in Late Medieval England; Gendering the Master Narrative: Women and Power in the Middle Ages; and Records of Early English Drama: Ecclesiastical London.

In her 2002 study Women, Reading, and Piety in Late Medieval England, Erler examines the books owned and read by seven women between 1350 and 1550. She documents the trading of books between women, the acquisition of libraries, and the bequeathing of books in women's wills. Most of the women profiled were nuns or widows, those most likely to be literate or to leave a will bequeathing their books to an heir. Erler, according to Denis Renevey in Medium Aevum, "should be praised for delivering such a wealth of information in such a compact, dense, and heavily footnoted piece of research." "The heart of her book," wrote the critic for the American Historical Review, "consists of six extremely well-researched essays framed by a lucid synthetic introduction and a brief epilogue." Sharon Wright in the Canadian Journal of History called Erler's book an "elegant and useful study." Wright concluded: "Methodically researched and carefully argued, Women, Reading, and Piety in Late Medieval England was a pleasure to read and ought to be on every medieval English scholar's bookshelf." David N. Bell, writing in the Journal of English and Germanic Philology, called Women, Reading, and Piety in Late Medieval England "well researched, well written, and well presented, and it represents a real advance in the ongoing reevaluation of women's reading and literacy in late medieval England."

In Women and Power in the Middle Ages, Erler and coeditor Maryanne Kowaleski examined the means by which women during the Middle Ages exerted power. As Erler explained in her introduction to her Gendering the Master Narrative: "The task of that book was to recover and make visible ways that women acted in history—specifically, around the issue of what we then called power and what is now often called agency. In the 1970s and 1980s, groundbreaking work in anthropology and sociology that asked about women's relation to culture had prepared the way for our more specific interest in women's relation to power within a particular historical period, the middle ages." In Erler's Gendering the Master Narrative, also edited with Maryanne Kowaleski, the focus takes into account the poststructural theories of Michel Foucault and Judith Butler. As Erler noted in her introduction: "One result of these philosophers' work has been to make it more difficult to speak, on the one hand, of agency, and on the other, of ‘women.’ Foucault's demonstration of historic forces beyond individual control has made the task of posing models of resistance to hierarchical domination more complex, while Butler's work, together with the experience of women of color, has removed the concept of a unitary ‘women's experience.’" Among the topics covered in Gendering the Master Narrative are women's participation in the church, home ownership by women, and the idea that domestic life in the Middle Ages was not as patriarchal as earlier scholars had suggested. By using the title Gendering the Master Narrative, the editors "intend to prepare readers for the fact that the essays supplement the story of men's access to and wielding of power in the European Middle Ages with the story of women's," the critic for the American Historical Review explained. "There is no artificial or misguided equalizing going on here, however. Women had power, but overall they were disadvantaged." Jacqueline Murray, writing in the Canadian Journal of History, called Gendering the Master Narrative "an intriguing and important collection of essays. It will become a marker of the development of the study of women in the Middle Ages."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Albion, fall, 2004, Anne L. Clark, review of Gendering the Master Narrative: Women and Power in the Middle Ages, p. 490; winter, 2004, Moira Fitzgibbons, review of Women, Reading, and Piety in Late Medieval England, p. 627.

American Historical Review, June, 2003, review of Women, Reading, and Piety in Late Medieval England; February, 2005, review of Gendering the Master Narrative.

Canadian Journal of History, April, 2004, Sharon Wright, review of Women, Reading, and Piety in Late Medieval England, p. 109; August, 2005, Jacqueline Murray, review of Gendering the Master Narrative, p. 297.

Gender & History, April, 2006, Sarah M. Butler, review of Gendering the Master Narrative, pp. 167-169.

Journal of British Studies, October, 2004, Joel T. Rosenthal, review of Women, Reading, and Piety in Late Medieval England, p. 506.

Journal of English and Germanic Philology, January, 2005, David N. Bell, review of Women, Reading, and Piety in Late Medieval England, pp. 129-130.

Journal of Women's History, autumn, 2005, Anna Dronzek, review of Gendering the Master Narrative, pp. 158-160.

Medium Aevum, spring, 2004, Denis Renevey, review of Women, Reading, and Piety in Late Medieval England, p. 119.

Speculum, October, 2006, Karen Winstead, review of Women, Reading, and Piety in Late Medieval England, pp. 1184-1185.

Studies in the Age of Chaucer, December, 2004, Anne Clark Bartlett, review of Women, Reading, and Piety in Late Medieval England, pp. 389-390.

ONLINE

Fordham University Web site,http://www.fordham.edu/ (May 22, 2008), brief biography of Erler.