Margaret M. McGowan, a British cultural historian who created a new international academic field of study now known as early dance and received national awards in both Britain and France, died March 16 in Brighton, England. She was 90.
Her death in hospital was confirmed by her husband, Sydney Anglo, a Renaissance historian. He said the cause was bladder cancer.
Professor McGowan, who was bilingual, revealed in her first book, published in French in 1963, L’Art du Ballet de Cour en France, 1581-1643. In it she analyzed the spectacular mixed-media genre in which kings and members of royal and aristocratic families made public appearances. Her interdisciplinary approach, hailed as “precociously modern” by fellow dance historian Richard Ralph, broadened the field of dance history. Her devotion to research was lifelong and multifaceted.
Her scientific work extended beyond Europe. Linda Tomko, a dance historian at the University of California, Riverside, wrote in an email: “Margaret McGowan’s research on dance and spectacle in France from the early to mid-1770s was a research question that has since found wide acceptance in U.S. dance scholarship and abroad Has.”
In 1998, Professor McGowan was honored with the title of Commander of the Order of the British Empire in Great Britain; In 2020 she was appointed Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France.
Margaret Mary McGowan was born on December 21, 1931 in Deeping St James, Lincolnshire, England. Although she could have studied French at the prestigious University of Oxford, she chose the University of Reading instead because, unlike Oxford, Reading would give her a year in France.
She stayed in France to teach there University of Strasbourg from 1955 to 1957then she accepted a position at the University of Glasgow, where she taught until 1964. She completed postgraduate studies at the renowned Warburg Institute, internationally renowned as a center for the study of the interaction of ideas, images and society’s history.
Its theme was the ballet de cour at the courts of the French kings Henry III, Henry IV and Louis XIII; her adviser was the important historian of the Renaissance Frances Yates. The inspiration she received from both Warburg and Ms. Yates became a source of lifelong loyalty.
speak 2020, Professor McGowan recalled guiding Mrs. Yates in her work at the Ballet de Cour. Ms. Yates “realized that the material I was working on had not previously been considered in an interdisciplinary manner,” she said. “Musicologists had researched vocal music, art historians had begun to find drawings from festivals, and literary scholars had recognized the importance of courtly context in understanding poetry.” Ms Yates, the pioneering French scholar Jean Jacquot and Mr Jacquot’s colleagues at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique guided Professor McGowan in her quest to connect these artistic elements in a larger European context.
The importance of Professor McGowan’s 1963 book on the Ballet de Cour has been recognized by scholars in France, Britain, the United States and elsewhere. She joined the faculty of the University of Sussex in 1964 and was promoted to Deputy Vice-Chancellor in 1992. She held this position until 1998, a year after her retirement as a professor.
In 1964 she married Professor Anglo, who specialized in the parallel field of Tudor tournaments, and whom she had met when they were both students of Ms. Yates at Warburg.
In an interview, Professor Anglo spoke of his wife with intense, loving and wry admiration: “She was 75 percent of our marriage. I was 25 percent.” (Two days later he wrote himself a percentage lower than this.)
Professor McGowan has edited several books bringing together the latest work from a number of colleagues. One of those colleagues, Margaret Shewring of the University of Warwick, noted in an email that Professor McGowan’s retirement from university duties had brought new fortunes by allowing her to pursue many new research directions.
Some of her books dealt primarily with the literature of the French Renaissance: the poet Pierre de Ronsard, the essayist Michel de Montaigne. But she remained true to the interdisciplinary character of the Renaissance itself.
Presenting her Ideal Forms in the Age of Ronsard (1985), she noted the ubiquitous importance of praising Renaissance thought as “the dominant form in public life, literature and art”. She placed Ronsard’s verses in the complex context of the rule of the Valois monarchs in the mid-16th century. With “The Vision of Rome in the French Renaissance” (2000) she examined the vital importance of classical ruins for Renaissance Rome and thus the importance of Rome for French culture.
Her Dance in the Renaissance: European Fashion, French Obsession (2008) won the Wolfson History Prize, awarded annually to a British subject for outstanding history; four years later she published a companion volume in French that focused on source materials.
Catherine Turocy, artistic director of the New York Baroque Dance Company, wrote in an email that Dance in the Renaissance was “a detailed analysis of 16th-century society” and that it was inspired by Professor McGowan’s “insights, passionate views and new research “ was inspired and guided.
Her last three books demonstrated the breadth of her understanding of the Renaissance. Festival and Violence: Princely Entrys in the Content of War, 1480-1635 (2019) combined public performance with military politics. Charles V, Prince Philip, and the Politics of Succession (2020) explored the dynastic politics of the Habsburg Emperor Charles V, who used spectacular festivities as propaganda to impose the future King Philip II on the Netherlands. Her last book, completed just three weeks before her death, is still pending: its title, Harmony in the Universe: Spectacle and the Quest for Peace in the Early Modern Period, indicates the distinctive scope of her historical vision.
Loyal to the Warburg Institute, Professor McGowan chaired the Review in 2006 and 2007. From 2011 to 2014, when she was in her 80s, she led the Institute’s drive for independence from the University of London. to take it to the British High Court – with eventual success.
In addition to her husband, she is survived by a sister, Sheila.
Professor McGowan was appointed a Fellow of the British Academy, the national academy for humanities and social sciences, in 1993. In 2007, the British journal Dance Research, where she was deputy editor for 25 years, honored her with a special commemorative issue and recognized her as a “Pioneer of Academic Dance Research”.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/01/books/margaret-mcgowan-dead.html Margaret M. McGowan, who expanded the field of dance history, dies at the age of 90