The Collected Object

The Duchess's Museum takes as its focus the vast collection of antiquities and natural history specimens assembled by Margaret Cavendish Bentinck, Duchess of Portland (1715-1785). It answered historians’ claims of an ill-informed collection, famous only for its dispersal at auction in 1786, instead uncovering evidence from a diverse range of material and literary sources to reveal a rich community of contributors whose labours had broad cultural, connoisseurial and authorial impact. Research from this project is published in Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Journal 18 and Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal. A postdoctoral fellowship at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art has centred on preparing a monograph based on this research for publication.

Women and the Objects of History advances a growing field of enquiry into early modern historiographical practice by turning to a range of materials, many previously unknown to scholars, to ask how, in the shadow of a public discourse dominated by men, women both upheld and questioned the grand narratives that presented Britain as an ancient and colonial power. My research explores how material and textual sources, including letters, manuscripts, subterranean objectscapes, cabinets of curiosity and even the body, became the loci of individual and collective historiographical endeavours. A foundational article based on this research appears in Women's History Review and I am co-editing, with Professor Stefan Berger, A Cultural History of Historiography, 1650-1800 for Bloomsbury Academic.

The Manuscript
The Inscribed Surface

Eighteenth-Century Graffiti: Romance, Ritual and Rebellion is a new project that takes as its subject the inscribed surface. Turning to instances of inscription and decoration across stone, wood, brick and glass, the project explores graffiti as commemorative, instructive and subversive work, variously motivated by the romantic and familial, by incarceration and the politics of resistance. From petroglyphs carved into the corners and gateways of dwellings, arranged around portals between exterior and interior worlds, else emphatically impressed into the parameters of prisons both real and imagined, such communicative practice gave voice to lived and embodied experience. 

Beyond the collected object, the manuscript and the inscribed surface, my research extends to the cinematic and television screens. In particular, I am interested in the visual and material cultures of adaptation and am currently developing work on Sanditon (2019), Austenland (2013), Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) and Outlander (2014 - ). 

The Eighteenth Century
On Screen 
© 2020 by Madeleine Pelling
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