Bloom scores Renaissance coup

Katharine Enoch

Assistant Professor of English Gina Bloom has been awarded with two prestigious fellowships in support of her research and completion of two projects on which she is currently working. The fellowships, worth $44,000, were awarded from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Huntington Library of San Marino, Calif. Bloom is one of three recipients of the $40,000 Solmsen Fellowship through which she will spend the 2004-05 year as a scholar-in-residence at Madison’s Institute for Research in the Humanities. There, Bloom will begin research for her book “Playing Boys: Youth and Masculinity on the Early Modern Stage” in which Bloom discusses signs of adult masculinity in young boy characters of early modern English drama. “I argue that early modern dramatists use depictions of boyish play to reflect on and cope with the pressures of performing manly identity during a period widely recognized as undergoing economic, political, and social crises of order,” explains Bloom in her academic proposal. Her research includes boy characters playing pranks, catching bugs, throwing dice, and how these activities prepare boys for adulthood.

She also examines adult males’ reflection on their youth when confronted with their own mortality. Her research is drawn mostly from Renaissance plays. “The Solmsen offers me the luxury of an extended period of time to research and write as well as the opportunity to work through ideas with some of the best scholars in the field,” said Bloom.

David Sorkin, director of the Institute for Research in the Humanities at Madison said that “Professor Bloom’s fellowship appointment was a coup” referring to the trend of foreign appointees in the past. “That sounds about right,” added Professor of English and head of LU’s English department Timothy Spurgin, “since last year’s winners came from Oxford, Moscow, and Berlin.” Other recipients this year were professors at the University of Arizona and Cambridge University.

Professor Bloom’s second $4,000 fellowship was from the Huntington Library of San Marino Calif. where she will be spending one month this summer and a second month the summer of 2005. There, she will be completing research for her book “Choreographing Voice: Agency and the Staging of Gender in Early Modern England” and taking advantage of Huntington’s rare collection of books from the Renaissance.

This project is an effort to understand how dramatists of the Renaissance present the human voice and how the voice carries the words of a play to its audience. In a summary of her work, Bloom emphasizes that “early modern writers underscore that the voice has material properties such as form and a capacity for movement, but at the same time, writers represent the form of the voice as ephemeral, its movement as unpredictable.” Bloom discusses the conflict between considering voice as an ephemeral breath easily swept away by wind, a container for the soul carried by breath, and the power we consider the voice to possess. Her research will be drawn from anatomy books, religious sermons, books on pedagogy, authors attempting to explain voice, and plays.

“Professor Bloom’s achievements are most impressive,” said Spurgin, “Her awards not only recognize the strength of her scholarship, but also bring distinction to Lawrence.” While Prof. Bloom is away on her fellowship, the English department will be temporarily filling her position for the winter and spring terms.