On Wednesday, October 7 at 6:00 p.m. in Room 133 of the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard for an Eighteenth-Century Studies Seminar in a special presentation, “Meeting Mary Astell,” by Professor Ruth Perry (MIT) on the challenges of archival research. Professor Perry’s talk recognizes that literary critics are rarely trained to do historical research about their authors or their periods; they do not know how to sleuth in the archives and uncover new insights amongst long-forgotten primary sources. In a series of amusing reminiscences, Perry recounts her adventures while researching her critically acclaimed biography of Mary Astell (1666-1731). In describing how she found some of her source material, Perry will shed useful light on the fascinating ups and downs of archival research and suggest strategies for similar pursuits.
Ruth Perry is Ann Fetter Friedlaender Professor of Humanities at MIT; past president of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies; a co-founder of the Boston Area Graduate Consortium of Women’s Studies; winner of numerous fellowships and awards including the Guggenheim, ACLS, and NEH; the author of three monographs—Women, Letters, and the Novel (AMS Press); The Celebrated Mary Astell: An Early English Feminist 1666-1731 (Chicago); and Novel Relations: The Transformation of Kinship in English Literature and Culture 1748-1818 (Cambridge)—as well as five edited volumes and myriad essays; and of course the co-chair of our seminar. She is currently writing a biography of Anna Gordon, celebrated by Francis James Child for her repertoire of “superior ballads.”