What can feminist cultural history learn from earlier female icons?

The Centre for Feminist Research at York University and the Institute for Feminist Legal Studies are hosting Feminist Knowledge Reconsidered: Feminism and the Academy at York to mark the 50th anniversary of York University.

The third lecture in the series is "Scholarship is the Restitution of Decayed Intelligence: Writing Feminist Cultural History". It  will be presented by York Professor Ann (Rusty) Shteir on Thursday, April 9 at 2:30pm at the Founders Assembly Hall, 152 Founders College.

Right: Professor Ann (Rusty) Shteir

Shteir is a professor of women’s studies and humanities at York University. She recently co-edited Figuring It Out: Science, Gender, and Visual Culture (2006). Her current project is a cultural history of the Roman goddess Flora in art, literature and science.

What can feminist cultural history learn from female celebrities and icons in earlier centuries? In this illustrated talk, Shteir will discuss Bluestockings and mythological goddesses in 18th-century England. In history, Bluestockings were a specific group of intellectuals that came to being in 1750. Among their most famous members was Elizabeth Carter, a poet, writer and translator, who was portrayed as Minerva, the Roman goddess of virtue and wisdom. Goddesses also featured in paintings by their prominent contemporary, the Swiss-Austrian painter Angelica Kauffman, who used mythology as vocabulary for self-fashioning.

Shteir will also show how the Roman goddess Flora is depicted in cultures of art and science as the mother of flowers and as a prostitute. A generation of historicizing feminist scholarship makes it possible to reconsider these figures in the cross-currents and complexities of cultural representations and gendered realities.

The director of the Graduate Women’s Studies Program from 1993 to 1997, Shteir’s research interests are in women, gender, and the history of science; early feminist writings; 18th- and 19th-century women’s studies; women and botany; and mythology and visual culture. She has written widely about historical and cultural perspectives on women, nature and science. Her book Cultivating Women, Cultivating Science: Flora’s Daughters and Botany in English 1760 to 1860  received the 1996 Joan Kelly Memorial Prize for Women’s History and is now an American Council of Learned Societies e-book.
The second lecture in the Feminist Knowledge Reconsidered: Feminism and the Academy at York series by Nadje Al-Ali, chair of the Centre for Gender Studies at the School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London, can be viewed online by clicking here.