Texas State History Associate Professor Dr. Ron Johnson, who is organizing the event and received a Pickering Fellowship himself, describes the fellowships’ important role in opening doors for underrepresented students, “The Pickering, Rangel, and Payne Fellowships offer wonderful ways for students from historically underrepresented groups, including females, to receive funding for undergraduate and graduate school and to serve in wonderful careers around the globe. Many underrepresented students have not considered careers in international affairs.”
The Rangel and Pickering Programs are funding by the United States Department of State and are administered by Howard University.
“A good potion of my job is telling people about the opportunities that we offer, and it’s really important to me that folks from across the United States know that careers in the Department of State can be fore them,” Dr. Lopez-McGee said. “My hope for my visit to Texas State is that students see themselves in these fellowships and consider them as they are looking at potential career opportunities.”
Dr. Johnson continues, “Inviting Dr. Lily Lopez-McGee from the Pickering Foundation is an easy, safe way for students to gain information and ask questions. I am a Pickering Fellow; I would not have enjoyed the life I have (or be a professor at Texas State!) without the opportunities the fellowship provided me.”
Sponsored by: the Office of Student Diversity and Inclusion, College of Liberal Arts, Honors College, Department of Geography, Department of History, Department of Philosophy, Department of Political Science, Center for Diversity and Gender Studies, Center for International Studies, Center for the Study of the Southwest, Career Services, Latina/o Studies, African American Studies
A new academic year is starting and we were excited to hear from Jennifer Ruch. Not only did Jennifer give us a little bit of background on where she’s been and where she’s going, but she also tells us about her doctoral research, and leaves us with a few tips for first year graduate students!
Can you tell us a bit about your path so far?
Jennifer Ruch: I received my B.A in history from Texas State in 2014 and I continued on with the Public History Program and earned my M.A. in 2016. I wrote my thesis on Austin music in the 1960s and 1970s with particular interest in the narrative’s intersection with cultural heritage construction. I was lucky enough to publish my M.A. thesis in the Journal of Texas Music History through the Center for Texas Music History. I worked closely with Dr. Jason Mellard, Dr. Lynn Denton, and Dr. Gary Hartman. I began my PhD at Middle Tennessee State University last fall and specialize in American popular music, museums, popular culture, and material culture. I am continuing my research to analyze the intersection between popular music, the museum, and the music industry. My dissertation will explore the genre dubbed “cowpunk” in the Nashville during the late 20th century. I am a year away from qualifying exams, but currently have a dissertation committee that includes the State Historian of Tennessee, Dr. Carroll Van West. I work as a doctoral research assistant for the Oral History Association and I also work part time at the Grand Ole Opry House. My hope is that my PhD and the research I am conducting will broaden the field’s understanding of music and popular culture in the academic & museum spaces.
So, what is cowpunk?:
Jennifer Ruch: I am exploring a regional intersection of punk and country music that originated in the UK in the 1980s and gained popularity in L.A. as well as Nashville. It was a brief moment in time, but its importance has more to do with the presence of an underground scene in Nashville adjacent to mainstream country music. Think bands like Jason & the Scorchers, Rank & File (actually out of Austin), Social Distortion. Dwight Yoakum even dabbled in cowpunk early on.
What are few tips you have for first year graduate students?
Get to know your faculty and your centers! They can be your biggest help while you acclimate to graduate school life. Don’t be afraid to reach out!
Know when to take a breather. Breaks are healthy. Running yourself into the ground and losing sleep doesn’t produce quality work. Get your sleep, eat smart, and never apologize for a mental health day!
Emerita Professor of History Dr. Elizabeth Makowski recently released her new book, titled Apostate Nuns in the Later Middle Ages (Boydell and Brewer 2019, 30% discount using promo code: BB130).
Dr. Makowski took the time to answer a few questions about her new book and the research behind it!
Book description: “To make a vow is a matter of the will, to fulfill one is a matter of necessity,” declared late medieval canon law, and religious profession involved the most solemn of those vows. Professed nuns could never renege on their vows and if they did attempt to re-enter secular society, they became apostates. Automatically excommunicated, they could be forcibly returned to their monasteries where, should they remain unrepentant, penalties, including imprisonment ,might be imposed. And although the law imposed uniform censures on male and female apostates, the norms regarding the proper sphere of activity for women within the Church would prohibit disaffected nuns from availing themselves of options short of apostasy that were readily available to monks similarly unhappy with the choices that they had made.
This book is the first to address the practical and legal problems facing women religious, both in England and in Europe, who chose to reject the terms of their profession as nuns. The women featured in these pages acted, and were acted upon, by the law: the volume shows alleged apostates petitioning for redress and actual apostates seeking to extricate themselves, via self-help and litigation, from the moral and legal consequences of their behaviour.
Q: What question(s) did you hope to answer when you started this book?
Dr. Elizabeth Makowski: The unanswered questions with which I was left after finishing my book on cloister regulation of nuns (Canon Law and Cloistered Women) really led to all of my subsequent research projects. Exploring Pope Boniface VIII’s vaunted effort (the papal bull, Periculoso, 1298) to impose strict enclosure upon “all nuns of every order throughout Christendom,” made me curious about the ways religious women who were not technically nuns were treated by Church lawyers and pundits (A Pernicious Sort of Woman). Then I began to wonder how women who were nuns, and who actually tried to implement strict cloister rules, managed to stay financially solvent (English Nuns and the Law in the Middle Ages). I was drawn to the topic of apostate nuns since the rules for the recognition, return, and reintegration of apostate monks and nuns were established at just about the same time that Pope Boniface had attempted to, and at least partially succeeded in, making life for female regulars considerably different from that of their male counterparts. When I began to investigate, I found that scholars had not given very much attention to the topic of female apostasy and that convinced me to begin my own research.
Q: What major challenges did you face in doing this research?
Dr. Makowski: Work on this book was interrupted by a major family health crisis so it was a slow process. I reckon it was seven years in the making and because of the gap between beginning the research/writing, and submitting a draft to my editor at Boydell and Brewer, I had a very hard time crafting the manuscript into the best, most cohesive book it could be. Integrating the suggestions for revision, given by the readers to whom the manuscript was sent, while remaining true to my initial vision for this book was indeed a challenge. Thanks to those capable and thorough reviewers, and the patience of my editor, well, you can judge for yourselves.
Q: What type of primary sources/archives did you consult?
Dr. Makowski: The most important primary sources used for this book fall into roughly three categories. First, canonical rules and regulations governing apostasy; legislative and doctrinal material that became the formal, normative law. Second, case material and other documents of practice that tell us something about the implementation of that law. Third, contemporary narratives about apostates that provide some insight into the lived experience of both apostate nuns and those charged with their return and reintegration to monastic life. While some of these original sources have been published—the defining books of the Corpus Iuris (the collection of medieval Church law) for instance— a great deal of other important prescriptive literature, such as consilia, (legal opinions written by academic canonists for use by court or client), and many episcopal registers, episcopal commissary and audience court records, Chancery wits, and proceedings in royal or papal courts have not. All sources, even published chronicles such as Iohannes Busch, Chronicon Windeshemense Und Liber De Reformatione Monasteriorum, are generally untranslated, and with the exception of excerpts from them that appeared in, and are quoted from, secondary scholarship, all translations and paraphrases are mine.
Q: What was something surprising that you found in your research?
Dr. Makowski: Oh, there were so many surprises! For example, many nuns who left their convents later actually sought to return to the vowed life, although the circumstances of an apostate’s secular existence were real considerations in decision-making; motherhood in particular often tipped the balance. Lucrezia Butti had attempted to recommit herself to religious life after the birth of her son, but left again, for good, soon after. Battistina, professed nun who had fled her convent of Poor Clares to live for years with, and have children by, a Milanese layman, begged the Sacred Penitentiary for absolution and the opportunity to return to religion only after her children were grown; and it was not until after the death of her son that Sophie of Brunswick reconsidered her resolve to remain in the world.
I was also struck by the variety of reasons for, and means by which, these disaffected nuns became apostates. The prospect of inheriting great wealth by renouncing one’s religious status was a compelling lure for some, but romantic love, lust, or a combination of both, motivated far more professed nuns to become apostates. Some apostates were reluctant renegades set adrift by war and disaster, lapses in judgment, or religious reforms that consigned them to a life much more rigorous than they had ever promised to live. Some broke with the vowed life suddenly, others strayed from it by degrees.
And then there were the legal ambiguities that could trip up an unwary researcher! Relatively lax regulations regarding the admission of male clergy and laymen into cloister confines could result in what was technically referred to as raptus, ravishment, an ambiguous term which was used by scribes and lawmakers to mean both rape (sexual assault) and abduction, forced or consensual. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, it became part of the formula to initiate a case in civil and criminal courts, but it might just as easily have denoted a nun’s voluntary abandonment of her vows as sexual violence and forceful seizure. Even if an escape plan was hatched by someone other than the apostate herself, collusion can seldom be entirely excluded from the equation.