"More than Shakespeare’s 'Dark Lady': The Life and Work of Aemilia Lanyer"

Presented by Erin McCarthy

Assistant Director, ACMRS

Monday, August 26, 2013 at 7:00pm, Changing Hands Bookstore

About the Program
Aemilia Bassano Lanyer (c. 1569–1645) was born in London to Baptista Bassano, a court musician of Venetian descent, and Margaret Johnson, his “reputed wife.” As a girl, she was educated in the household Susan Bertie, Dowager Countess of Kent. She later became the mistress of the powerful Lord Chamberlain, Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon; when she became pregnant with Hunsdon’s child, she was, according to astrologer Simon Forman, “for color married to a minstrel.” Her husband, court musician Alfonso Lanyer, reportedly “delte hardly with her and spent and consumed her goods.” These early experiences inform her Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum (1611), the first book of original English poetry by a woman to be published in the seventeenth century and one of the first books addressed specifically to a female audience. Lanyer, like most Renaissance authors, seems not to have made much money from publishing her work, and after her husband’s death, she attempted to support herself by opening a small school and securing a patent to weigh hay and grain rather than remarrying. Nevertheless, for much of the twentieth century, her accomplishments were overshadowed by dubious claims that she was the “Dark Lady” of Shakespeare’s sonnets. This talk will focus on three questions: Why was Lanyer thought to be Shakespeare’s “Dark Lady”? What are the stakes of thinking about her in this way? Most importantly, how can we best understand and appreciate Aemilia Lanyer’s own achievements?

About Erin McCarthy
Erin McCarthy returned to Arizona State University to work at ACMRS in January 2013. She earned her B.A. in English literature at ASU in 2005, and went on to complete her M.A., Ph.D., and interdisciplinary Certificate in Medieval and Renaissance studies at The Ohio State University in 2012. While at Ohio State, she taught a wide range of undergraduate courses, including first-year writing, a historical survey of British literature, and introductory, upper-division, and honors Shakespeare courses, and was elected to the advisory board for Ohio State’s Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Her research interests include early modern English poetry and poetics, Shakespeare, bibliography and the history of the book, and scholarly editing. She is currently working on a book manuscript that examines the printing of late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English verse collections and argues that print publication fundamentally altered early modern English poetic culture and is collaborating with Richard Dutton on a scholarly edition of an unpublished seventeenth-century manuscript play. In addition to fellowships from the Ohio State and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, she has been awarded grants from the Folger Institute, the Shakespeare Association of America, and Ohio State’s Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. She maintains active memberships in the Modern Language Association, the Shakespeare Association of America, the Bibliographical Society of America, and the Renaissance Society of America, where she serves as the ACMRS representative on the RSA Council.