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FACULTY RESEARCH LECTURE: Margaret Ferguson honored

By Dave Jones on May 6, 2011 in University News


"Missing the Maidenhead: Cultural Debates About the Hymen," by Margaret Ferguson, distinguished professor of English

WHEN: 4 p.m. Friday, May 27

WHERE: Ballroom B, Activities and Recreation Center

This program is free and open to the public. Seating is limited; for more information, contact Mary White, (530) 752-1696 or


The Davis Sigma Chi club established the Faculty Research Lecture Award in 1941, honoring a faculty member “whose research contributions have greatly enhanced human knowledge and brought widespread honor and recognition to themselves and the university.”

The Academic Senate assumed responsibility for the award after 1951. The most recent previous recipients from the Department of English were Gary Snyder and Sandra Gilbert.

Other Academic Senate and Academic Federation awards.

Professor Howard Day to receive the Charles P. Nash Prize.

UC Davis News Service

Margaret Ferguson, a distinguished professor of English, is the recipient of the 2011 Faculty Research Lecture Award, given by her colleagues in the Davis Division of the Academic Senate.

The 69-year-old award, recognizing outstanding scholarly research, is the senate's highest accolade, and comes with a $1,000 cash prize.

The recipient also delivers the Faculty Research Lecture, with Ferguson's talk scheduled for Friday, May 27, on the topic: "Missing the Maidenhead: Cultural Debates About the Hymen." See box for lecture details.

“Professor Ferguson is an extraordinary scholar, whose prize-winning publications and transformative co-edited scholarly texts and collections locate her at the very center of current developments in the study of early modern (Renaissance) literature,” wrote colleague Karl Zender, professor emeritus of English, in a letter nominating her for the honor.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree in the history of art and English at Cornell, Ferguson earned her master’s and doctorate in comparative literature at Yale.

She taught at Yale, Columbia and the University of Colorado, Boulder, before joining the UC Davis faculty in 1997. She has held visiting professorships at UC Berkeley and Middlebury College.

She is ther author of two books, more than 35 refereed articles and book chapters, and 15 reviews and other publications, and has edited or co-edited 11 books, among them the widely used Norton Anthology of Poetry.

Her first book, Trials of Desire: Renaissance Defenses of Poetry, established her as a significant critic of Renaissance literature and helped her earn tenure at Yale.

That book was followed by Dido’s Daughters: Literacy, Gender and Empire in Early Modern England and France, in which she worked in three languages: Latin, English and French.

Zender, in his nomination letter, characterized Dido’s Daughters as “a watershed in the study of Renaissance culture.” The book won the Sixteenth Century Society's Roland H. Bainton Prize and the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women Book Prize, among other honors.

Ferguson’s scholarship also has been recognized with fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and, most recently, the American Council of Learned Societies.

The yearlong ACLS fellowship, one of the nation’s most prestigious, came with a $60,000 grant to support the writing of her new book, Missing the Maidenhead: Cultural Debates About the Hymen in the Early Modern Period. Read the news release.

"This is the book I’ve been wanting to write for a while," Ferguson said. "I don’t think I would have focused on this topic had I not been thinking about education for girls in the present and indeed, the education of my own three girls."

Ferguson and her husband, David Simpson, who holds the Needham Endowed Chair in English at UC Davis, are the parents of Susanna, 23, and twins Marianne and Christina, 14.

In her own youth, Ferguson explored journalism and considered a career with the United Nations as a translator.

But, inspired in part by the example of her teacher parents, she chose academia.

"Teaching and research go hand in hand,” she said. “Students push me to find out things that I don’t know."

Ferguson received teaching awards at Yale and the University of Colorado. At UC Davis, she received an Outstanding Graduate Mentor Award.

Along with her scholarship and teaching, Ferguson has made major contributions to campus governance, chairing the Department of English from 2006 to 2009.

According to Zender, she helped to rejuvenate the department, by attracting outstanding graduate students and new faculty members and overseeing a thorough revision of the curriculum.

While her list of honors is lengthy, Ferguson said she is most pleased with her latest one.

"I am just so grateful that my colleagues would think of me and then put so much time and effort into my candidacy," she said. 



Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556,