Holly Crocker, associate professor of English at the University of South Carolina, will give a Medieval & Renaissance Studies Lecture on Wednesday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m. in Northen Auditorium, Leyburn Library.
The title of her talk, which is free and open to the public, is "Grace, Agency and Networks of Virtue: Chaucer's Custance and Late Medieval Saints' Lives."
In her talk, Crocker puts Chaucer's "Man of Law's Tale" into conversation with models of virtue circulated by late Middle English saints' lives. In exploring overlaps between late virgin martyr legends and conduct books for women, she investigates the power of grace as it potentially enables women's ethical action.
While admitting the restrictive elements of grace theology, Crocker looks to pre-modern grace as a potential escape from customary conceptions of power and agency. When women are endowed with grace, either spiritual or social, action gathers around them that cannot be accounted for in the discourses that equate ethical power with the exercise of agency, control or sovereignty.
"Thinking about grace as a power that endows Chaucer's Custance clarifies the networked vitality of late medieval virtue ethics, as well as the alienation that accompanies later models of grace theology," Crocker says.
Her main areas of research are medieval and early modern literature, with particular emphasis on the relations between gender, philosophy and politics. Crocker is the author of "Chaucer's Visions of Manhood" (2007), and has edited an essay collection, "Comic Provocations: Exposing the Corpus of Old French Fabliaux" (2006).
Crocker's articles have appeared or are forthcoming in "The Chaucer Review," "Exemplaria," "The Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies," "Medieval Feminist Forum," "Shakespeare Quarterly," "Studies in the Age of Chaucer," among others, plus in numerous edited collections.
She is working on "The Matter of Feminine Virtue: Women's Ethical Action from Chaucer to Shakespeare," which argues that poets between ca. 1343 and ca. 1623 devise an alternative, anti-heroic model of virtue through their representations of women's suffering, endurance and forbearance.