The Experience of Loneliness in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

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This two-day online symposium aims to explore expressions of loneliness and isolation in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century writings.

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Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, public health experts worldwide have been concerned about a loneliness epidemic. This has wider ramifications within the academy too. How might we better support unaffiliated scholars who may feel that they are writing in isolation without the support of a community of colleagues? How might one feel ‘lonely’ even within an institution? And how could our understanding of ‘loneliness’ in early modern prose and poetry deepen our perception of social isolation for scholars and writers today? Building upon important work on the spatial, material and religious dimensions of solitude in late medieval and early modern Europe (Enenkel and Göttler, eds, Solitudo (Brill, 2018)) and ongoing research at Queen Mary, University of London (‘Pathologies of Solitude, 18th–21st Century’), this two-day symposium aims to explore the notion of loneliness and isolation in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century writings. Please visit our website for the full schedule.

Keynote Speakers:

Helen Wilcox (Bangor University), ‘The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Believer: Isolation in Seventeenth-Century Religious Poetry’

Jenni Hyde (Lancaster University), ‘“Nor syng, nor to daunce alone”: Precarity, Loneliness and the Early Career Academic’

Naomi Pullin (University of Warwick), ‘The Pleasures and Pains of Solitude and Sociability in Early Modern Britain’


Dewi Alter (Cardiff University), ‘Charles Edwards’ Afflicted Man’s Testimony and Nonconformist Loneliness in the Restoration Age of Persecution’

Marlin E. Blaine (California State University, Fullerton), ‘God’s Lonely Milton: Prophetic Alienation and its Recompenses in Paradise Lost

Effie Botonaki (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki), ‘“I am like an owl in the desert”: The Experience of Isolation and Upper-Class Early Modern Women’

Birgitte Breemerkamp (Independent), ‘“God Has Punished Us”: The Queen of Bohemia’s Exile in The Hague (1621–1661)’

Marlene Dirschauer (Ludwig Maximilian University), ‘“My heart’s most secret thought”: The Loneliness of (Writing) Desire in Lady Mary Wroth’s Pamphilia to Amphilantus

Veronica Fernandes (University of São Paulo), ‘Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s Experiences: Studying Alone’

Jane Kingsley-Smith (University of Roehampton), ‘How Could/Should Shakespeare be lonely?’

Ruth Lévai (University of Miskolc), ‘“Un milieu entre rien et tout”: The Self-Alienation of the Human Consciousness in Pascal’s Pensées

Kirsteen M. MacKenzie (Independent), ‘Under the Shadow of Widowerhood and Single Fatherhood: Loneliness in the Diary of Alexander Brodie of Brodie’

Andrew R. Murphy (Virginia Commonwealth University), ‘William Penn’s Some Fruits of Solitude: Public Disgrace and Private Consolation’

Rosamund Paice (Northumbria University), ‘Isolation in the Interregnum: The Poetry of Thomas, Lord Fairfax’

Michele Piscitelli (University of Birmingham), ‘“Beholding and contempling [sic] what she is”: The Origin of Elizabeth I’s Translation Talent and Faith During a Lonely 1544’

Bronwen Price (Independent), ‘“Still think on …”: Retreat, Engagement and Agency in Mary Chudleigh’s Works’

Andrzej Tadeusz Staniszewski (Jagiellonian University), ‘God Hath Laid His Hand on Me. Alienation, Death of Others and Negotiating Catharsis in Early Modern Poland’

James Taffe (Durham University), ‘“But she to be a Quene, and creuely handeled as was never sene”: Anne Boleyn and her gentlewomen in the Tower of London’


T: @EMLoneliness

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