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  • Performing Pedagogy in Early Modern England: Gender, Instruction, and Performance ed. by Kathryn M. Moncrief and Kathryn R. McPherson
  • Katherine Wallace
Moncrief, Kathryn M. and Kathryn R. McPherson, eds, Performing Pedagogy in Early Modern England: Gender, Instruction, and Performance (Studies in Performance and Early Modern Drama), Farnham, Ashgate, 2011; cloth; pp. xvi, 248; 10 b/w illustrations; R.R.P. £55.00; ISBN 9780754669418.

Performing Pedagogy in Early Modern England: Gender, Instruction, and Performance, edited by Kathryn M. Moncrief and Kathryn R. McPherson, presents an engaging look at education in the early modern period, with an emphasis on gender construction and representations of pedagogy in period drama. A sequel to their first collection of essays, Performing Maternity in Early Modern England (Ashgate, 2007), this volume offers a range of essays that examine educational culture and modes of pedagogy as they are revealed through various texts and discourses from the early modern period. Specific topics include women's foreign language acquisition and translation of humanist learning, mothers' roles in educating their children, violent sport as a precursor of military training, and political activism with regard to pedagogical institutions, among others. The volume is organized into four thematic sections which complement each other nicely: 'Humanism and its Discontents', 'Manifestations of Manhood', 'Decoding Domesticity', and 'Pedagogy Performed'. Almost all of the essays focus on one or more literary works and what they reveal with regard to educational practices in Elizabethan England (Chris Laoutaris's very interesting account of Lady Elizabeth Russell's political activism and verbal acumen is perhaps somewhat out of place among the other text-centred essays). Dramatic texts take centre stage (Marlowe's Dido Queene of Carthage, Jane Lumley's The Tragedie of Iphigeneia, Nicholas Breton's The Miseries of Mavillia, Thomas Middleton's A Chaste Maid in Cheapside, Elizabeth Cary's The Tragedie of Mariam, and Shakespeare's Love's Labor's Lost, Taming of the Shrew, and Hamlet form the principal works under examination), but instruction books, sermons, religious translations, and catechisms also make their way into the discussion.

With a gendered approach prevalent throughout the volume, the majority of essays focus on girls' education or women's contribution to pedagogy. Literacy was spreading rapidly in the early modern period, especially among women, and philosophies of pedagogy sought to contain women's education within boundaries appropriate for their gender. A discussion of normative gender roles and the acceptance or defiance of such by various sectors of society forms a major thread throughout the book. In real and dramatic situations, we find daughters reacting to their fathers' instruction, women becoming tutors in the affairs of love, and female translators defending [End Page 291] themselves in court. Thankfully, most of the essays manage to engage the age-old querelle des femmes with lively relevance, and it is refreshing to find that constructions of masculinity as well as femininity come under scrutiny in this book. The expected tropes of body and embodied performance are present here, but sometimes with unexpected perspectives, as in Jim Casey's '"Honest payneful pastimes": Pain, Play and Pedagogy in Early Modern England' or David Orvis's '"Lustful Jove and his adulterous child": Classical Paiderastia as Same-Sex Marriage in Marlowe's Dido Queene of Carthage'; other chapters examine the spiritual, emotional, and intellectual side of education. Critical theories including gender, literary, and cultural criticism are at a minimum in this volume, with only a few passing references to Butler and Bourdieu (among others), but one gets the sense that such theories provide the underlying methodology for the majority of the essays. In more abundance are references to contemporary treatises, with Juan de Vives and Richard Mulcaster featuring most frequently.

Performing Pedagogy is integrally concerned with performance, of dramatic parts upon the stage and of gender and social roles in everyday life. As such it challenges the idea of specific sites of education, and argues that 'early modern educational practice was itself performative' (p. 7). Particularly new to the field is the proposal that the early modern stage was an important pedagogical site, particularly in the teaching (or defying) of gender roles. Through an examination of various sites of study - home, classroom, church, and stage...


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pp. 291-292
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