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  • Confronting the Present with the Past: Essays in Honour of Sheila Delaney
  • Diane Watt (bio)
A.E. Christa Canitz and Andrew Taylor, editors. Confronting the Present with the Past: Essays in Honour of Sheila Delaney. Special issue, Florilegium 23, no. 1 (2006)

Sheila Delaney's work as a medieval literary scholar over the last four decades has had a huge impact on interdisciplinary studies of the later Middle Ages. Perhaps more than any other scholar in the second half of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, Delaney has also succeeded in communicating to those working on later periods of history and literature the extent to which they too can learn from a more nuanced understanding of the past. As Suzanne Conklin Akbari states, in the first essay in this volume, which takes the form of a critical overview of three of Delaney's most influential articles, Delaney's scholarship can be characterized by its bravery and passion, and by her 'willingness to make bold, deliberately provocative arguments in order to shake up commonly accepted scholarly views.' Delaney is most famous for her books on Chaucer and Osbern Bokenham; her essays on medieval women's writing, especially Christine de Pizan and Margery Kempe; and her edited collections and essays on medieval Jewish studies. The chapters selected for inclusion in this volume all contribute to debates that Delaney has played a key role in developing, especially in relation to gender and women (the essays by Glenn Burger on conduct literature and Brenda M. Hosington on the querelle des femmes in early English print culture stand out here); to manuscript and Jewish studies (special mention must be made of Kathryn Kerby-Fulton's account of English Joachite texts, which often express respect for Jewish thought, and Kerby-Fulton's invaluable manuscript 'list for future studies' in the area); and to post-medieval studies (including a lively and engaging essay by Stephen Knight on Robin Hood, which answers the question 'When and Why Did the Longbowman of the People Mount Up Like a Lord?'). This volume in honour of Delaney should be read alongside two other key works: Sheila Delaney's own published account of her ethically and politically committed career in her essay 'Medieval Marxists: A Tradition,' published in the Medieval Feminist Forum 30 (Fall 2000): 9-15; and the special issue of Exemplaria 19, no. 1 (Spring 2007), edited by Lynn Arner, which includes an appraisal by Arner of Delaney's career, and a comprehensive list of Delaney's publications up to 2006. One of Delaney's most famous articles was the provocatively entitled '"Mothers to Think Back Through": Who Are They?' in which she challenged the canonization of Christine de Pizan as a feminist foremother. Sheila Delaney was, without doubt, a highly controversial academic, but in this age of post- or third-wave feminism, in which intergenerational conflicts between feminist theorists and scholars can, and so often do, work against the interests of feminist, gender, and queer [End Page 440] studies, Delaney is herself, without a doubt, a feminist to think back through.

Diane Watt

Diane Watt, Department of English and Creative Writing, Aberystwyth University



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