Friendship's Shadows: Women's Friendship and the Politics of Betrayal in England, 1640-1705

Friendship's Shadows: Women's Friendship and the Politics of Betrayal in England, 1640-1705

Friendship's Shadows: Women's Friendship and the Politics of Betrayal in England, 1640-1705

Friendship's Shadows: Women's Friendship and the Politics of Betrayal in England, 1640-1705


Penelope Anderson's original study changes our understanding both of the masculine Renaissance friendship tradition and of the private forms of women's friendship of the eighteenth century and after. It uncovers the latent threat of betrayal lurking within politicized classical and humanist friendship, showing its surprising resilience as a model for political obligation undone and remade. Incorporating authors from Cicero to Abraham Cowley and Margaret Cavendish to Mary Astell, the book focuses on two extraordinary women writers, the royalist Katherine Philips and the republican Lucy Hutchinson. And it explores the ways in which they appropriate the friendship tradition in order to address problems of conflicting allegiances in the English Civil Wars and Restoration. As Penelope Anderson suggests, their writings on friendship provide a new account of women's relation to public life, organized through textual exchange rather than bodily reproduction.

Key Features:

  • Studies early modern women's friendship in depth for the first time
  • Offers an account of the classical and humanist discourse of friendship by revealing the centrality of betrayal to the Aristotelian, Ciceronian, and Epicurean traditions
  • Intervenes within recent feminist and queer theory by showing textual friendship to be an alternative account of women's relation to public life
  • Articulates the links between women's literary writing and political theories such as contract theory, natural sociability, and patriarchalism
  • Contributes to the growing interest in early modern women's writing, drawing on extensive archival materials and texts


Edinburgh Critical Studies in Renaissance Culture may, as a series title, provoke some surprise. On the one hand, the choice of the word ‘culture’ (rather than, say, ‘literature’) suggests that writers in this series subscribe to the now widespread assumption that the ‘literary’ is not isolable, as a mode of signifying, from other signifying practices that make up what we call ‘culture’. On the other hand, most of the critical work in English literary studies of the period 1500–1700 which endorses this idea has rejected the older identification of the period as ‘the Renaissance’, with its implicit homage to the myth of essential and universal Man coming to stand (in all his sovereign individuality) at the centre of a new world picture. in other words, the term ‘culture’ in the place of ‘literature’ leads us to expect the words ‘early modern’ in the place of ‘Renaissance’. Why, then, ‘Edinburgh Critical Studies in Renaissance Culture’?

The answer to that question lies at the heart of what distinguishes this critical series and defines its parameters. As Terence Cave has argued, the term ‘early modern’, though admirably egalitarian in conception, has had the unfortunate effect of essentialising the modern, that is, of positing ‘the advent of a once-and-for-all modernity’ which is the deictic ‘here and now’ from which we look back. the phrase ‘early modern’, that is to say, forecloses the possibility of other modernities, other futures that might have arisen, narrowing the scope of what we may learn from the past by construing it as a narrative leading inevitably to Western modernity, to ‘us’. Edinburgh Critical Studies in Renaissance Culture aims rather to shift the emphasis from a story of progress–early modern to modern–to series of critical encounters and conversations with the past, which may reveal to us some surprising alternatives buried within texts familiarly construed as episodes on the way to certain identifying features of our endlessly fascinating modernity. in keeping with one aspect of the etymology of ‘Renaissance’ or ‘Rinascimento’ as ‘rebirth’, moreover, this series features books that explore and interpret . . .

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