The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Sisters: Gender, Transgression, Adolescence

The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Sisters: Gender, Transgression, Adolescence

The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Sisters: Gender, Transgression, Adolescence

The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Sisters: Gender, Transgression, Adolescence

Excerpt

What does ‘feminist’ mean? Feminist is formed with the word ‘femme,’
‘woman,’ and means: someone who fights for women. For many of us it
means someone who fights for women as a class and for the disappearance
of this class.

Monique Wittig

Woman herself is never at issue in these statements: the feminine is defined
as the necessary complement to the operation of male sexuality, and, more
often, as a negative image that provides male sexuality with an unfailingly
phallic self-representation.

Luce Irigaray

This book takes as its point of departure the striking absence of girlhood in recent studies of early modern literature and drama, an absence that is particularly noteworthy in view of the considerable attention this scholarship has paid to boys. Although female children occupied a crucial and contested position in the early modern sex-gender system, our critical frameworks have not known how to account for them. We have been reading past their distinct positions as ‘girls’, ‘maids’, ‘damsels’ and ‘wenches’ by subsuming all female characters into the category of ‘women’. The result has been that feminist literary criticism has been without a critical vocabulary to counteract what Luce Irigaray calls ‘sexual (in)difference’, whereby female identities exist only as mirrors for men. Discourses of girlhood, I argue, fragmented gender categories in early modern England, producing multiple categories of femininity and femaleness; if the category of ‘women’ in early modern England was at times figured as merely a reflection of ‘men’, it was at best a fractured mirror.

Although it may seem strange to couple Wittig’s socialist theory with Irigaray’s psychoanalytical perspective in my epigraphs, I would suggest that where they come together is in their insistence that ‘woman’ and . . .

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