Project Vox: Recovering the World of Women Philosophers in Early Modern Europe (2020-2021)


The all-male canon in early modern philosophy has remained essentially fixed in teaching and research for 50 years. While this reflects women’s exclusion from early modern intellectual life, historical research reveals that many women still managed to influence philosophical debates, including those of canonical figures. Since there is still very little scholarship on women’s work, it is difficult to refashion curricula., a scholarly and pedagogical guide to early modern women philosophers, seeks to rectify this situation. Through international scholarly collaborations and a local, interdisciplinary team, the Project Vox team has researched and published content on five philosophers since launching in 2015.

This project seeks to change how philosophy is taught, a goal that will be realized over the course of many years as more philosophers get added to the Project Vox website. However, each figure on the website requires many months of original, historical research to meet scholarly standards. To sustain this effort over time, the team must refine and improve publishing workflows as well as methods for how to research, describe and ensure appropriate reuse of images for the site.

Project Description

This project has two linked goals: 1) the strengthening and extension of the Project Vox website to cover a wider range of early modern women; and 2) the training of students in various research, writing, textual and visual analysis and project management skills that might not be readily available through their degree programs.

In 2020-2021, the team will research, create and publish two additional philosopher entries: one on the Mexican philosopher Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz (requiring collaboration with non-Duke scholars), and another on the English philosopher Mary Shepard. Additionally, the team will collaborate with faculty at and beyond Duke to build classroom-based opportunities for undergraduate students to contribute research for the Project Vox site.

Key areas of work include:

  • Primary and secondary research: Beginner members of the team will conduct basic research (e.g., developing rudimentary biographies and bibliographies from existing scholarship). Advanced members, such as graduate students, will conduct archival research.
  • Image research: Team members will find historically accurate images that portray the life and times of women philosophers. This will involve methods and knowledge from art history, library science and law, to ascertain whether images accurately depict the person and time intended, provide relevant metadata and determine the appropriate source for obtaining reuse permission.
  • Outreach and assessment: In order to ensure that Project Vox is reaching its target audience and to continually improve how it reflects and involves that audience, team members will conduct social media campaigns, solicit input from members of the community and conduct a website assessment.

Anticipated Outputs

Original archival and secondary research on early modern women philosophers; maintenance and expansion of Project Vox website; social media campaigns; website assessment for functionality, usability and reach


Summer 2020 – Spring 2021

  • Summer 2020 (optional): Complete planning for 2020-2021 course(s) involving Project Vox; complete external review of Mary Shepherd entry; travel to European archives to conduct research (graduate student)
  • Fall 2020: Finalize, publish and promote Mary Shepherd entry; research Sor Juana entry with external collaborators; begin feasibility review for new philosopher entry
  • Spring 2021: Implement course-based approach to conducting research for Project Vox; synthesize Sor Juana research and conduct internal team review of entry; determine next philosopher entry to research and publish; conduct post-project and post-course assessments

See related teams, Project Vox: Training a New Generation of Collaborative Scholars (2021-2022) and Project Vox (2019-2020).


Image: Portrait of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762), from Project Vox website


Team Leaders

  • Andrew Janiak, Arts & Sciences-Philosophy
  • Elizabeth Milewicz, Duke Libraries

/graduate Team Members

  • Yasemin Altun, Art and Art History-PHD
  • Tatiana Gonzalez Buonomo, Humanities-AM
  • Jane Harwell, English-PHD
  • Dana Hogan, Art and Art History-PHD
  • Nicholas Smolenski, Music-AM, Music-PHD

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Francisco Banda
  • Jackson Cooksey, Economics (BS), Philosophy (AB2)
  • Leeloo Gilet, Philosophy (AB)
  • James Kelleher, Interdepartmental Major
  • Katherine Owensby, Classical Languages (AB), Linguistics (AB2)
  • Damla Ozdemir

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Susanna Caviglia, Arts & Sciences-Art, Art History, and Visual Studies
  • Alyssa Granacki, Arts & Sciences-Romance Studies
  • William Shaw, Duke Libraries
  • Cheryl Thomas, Duke Libraries
  • Anna Twiddy, Duke Libraries

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Sergio Gallego, City University of New York
  • Sofia Ortiz-Hinojosa, Vassar College