Aphra Behn's English Feminism: Wit and Satire

Aphra Behn's English Feminism: Wit and Satire

Aphra Behn's English Feminism: Wit and Satire

Aphra Behn's English Feminism: Wit and Satire


"English feminism has played a critical role in the development of twentieth-century western culture. Aphra Behn (1640-89) was undoubtedly the first English feminist and the first novelist in English literature. In her novels, a Spanish voice is present, and this is mainly from a woman, Maria de Zayas. Although the connection had not been seen previously, this book shows that Behn established an intellectual dialogue to debate and oppose the Spanish woman's point of view. Both women defended their right to express themselves in writing, condemned detractors, and permeated their prose with ironic wit. Both writers were especially concerned with the relationship between the sexes. Behn's novels, though, discard Zayas's pessimistic views and supernatural accounts; using wit and satire, they completely subvert the original texts." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


This book is aobut Aphra Behn's well-known work in two genres: playwriting and prose fiction that are heavily influenced by Spanish literature and culture. Her adaptations of Spanish literary pieces from the siglo de oro (the most flourishing period in the history of Spanish literature, roughly from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century) in her drama, a subject that has already received considerable attention, will be reviewed, and her uses of Spanish prose fiction for her novels are demonstrated. Through the study of scholarly works dealing with this subject, research on Behn's drama and novels, and an exhaustive comparison of her production with texts from the Spanish siglo de oro, the connecting points have been found.

M. M. Bakhtin's “Discourse in the Novel” in The Dialogic Imagination. Four Essays (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981) serves to explain Behn's discourse, for it is composed of a mixture of voices, heteroglossia, which she dialogizes. One of these voices, the Spanish, is present in almost half of her comedies and in more than half of her novels. Not only Calderón's cape and sword plays become basic for her “Spanish plot” comedies, but prose works by Cervantes and Castillo Solórzano are also used. Bakhtin's ideas become even more pertinent when discussing Behn's novels with the Spanish voice from María de Zayas y Sotomayor.

Likewise, the theory presented by Rose A. Zimbardo in A Mirror to Nature. Transformations in Drama and Aesthetics 1660– 1732 (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1986), which divides the period into four stages, has been of the utmost importance in showing the chronological process of Behn's production with its constant increase in dialogization. Her thesis also helps in understanding that when Behn changed her writing genre from comedies to novels, the greatest leap in dialogization occurred.

It is especially to John Loftis's The Spanish Plays of Neoclassi-

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