Rosalyn Sklar profile

Roz Sklar

Rosalyn Sklar

University of Brighton (2023)


Dr Ailsa Grant Ferguson


Healing women: Early modern women as healers in their own texts, practices and representations


This will be the first study of the creative representation, figurative and literal, of early modern Englishwomen as healers and medical practitioners in their own words and via their own practices. The interdisciplinary intersection of early modern medical practices and creative representations has been exposed by studies of Shakespeare and medicine (Slights, 2008; Heffernan, 1995) but women’s own representation, expression and transmission of medical knowledge and practice through creative expression has not been addressed. I will examine how early modern women expressed the practices of healing, promoting wellbeing and bodily autonomy via their own literary and visual art, manuscript communication, and marginalia. I will intervene in discourses of social, medical, literary and art history engaging with a broad range of narratives and practices to query how we understand what it was, in the early modern period, to ‘heal’ and how that speaks to our contemporary debates around bodily autonomy, wellbeing, and the narratives around medicine.

Stratford-upon-Avon is a uniquely well-documented site of early-modern life and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT) is an approved place of deposit and early modern studies hub. The project will engage with new research and outputs generated by Dr Ailsa Grant Ferguson’s current AHRC RDE Fellowship project, 2022-3, ‘Susanna Hall and Hall’s Croft: Gender, Cultural Memory, Heritage’, on which I am working as Research Officer. This work is producing ground-breaking spatial outputs in a digital spatial archive and a women’s wellbeing-focussed garden at Hall’s Croft that will create unique spaces for my own reflexive practice. I will continue to focus on Stratford-upon-Avon and south Warwickshire, the archives of the SBT, and a closer interrogation of provincial English women as patients and healers, as well as engaging with the SBT to create impactful public engagement through research outputs.