Privileging Gender in Early Modern England

Privileging Gender in Early Modern England

Privileging Gender in Early Modern England

Privileging Gender in Early Modern England

Synopsis

These essays focus on gender issues in early modern England as expressed in texts written by and about women.

Excerpt

The essays in this volume focus on the issue of gender as it relates to texts written by and about women in early modern England. Among the issues considered are the boundaries between private and public life, the problems of divorcing our understanding of the life from the work of a female author, the bibliographical procedures for charting the intellectual history of women, and the historical difference which obtains between categories of masculine and feminine in the sixteenth century and the late twentieth century.

Taken together, the essays in this collection also illustrate compatibilities among feminist theory, new historicism, and the methodologies of traditional bibliography and old historicism. The contributors engage a variety of theoretical approaches to historical problems and literary texts, but they avoid assuming doctrinaire positions. For this reason, the collection is arranged chronologically, rather than thematically.

Taken as a whole, these essays illustrate that the recent intersection of historical and literary studies has been productive. All of the essays make use of literary and documentary texts, but none of the essays engages in literary analysis as an end in itself.

In the first essay, entitled "The Books and Lives of Three Tudor Women," Mary Erler offers a model for charting the intellectual history of women as readers. Evidence of a dedication to a female patron does not in and of itself demonstrate that a book was intended for women readers. Erler's bibliographical work illustrates the need for painstaking research on the books that women owned and the connections among the women who owned them. Margaret Hannay, in 'Unlock my lipps': the Misere mei Deus of Anne Vaughan Lok and Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke," suggests that translation of religious texts afforded women an acceptable means of entering public discourse. Her essay also shows that further work is needed to identify those specific biblical texts that were reread so that they could be used to justify public discourse by women.

The study of "Historical Difference / Sexual Difference" byPhyllis Rackin breaks new theoretical ground by refining our understanding of distinctions between sixteenth- and late-twentieth-century conceptions of sexual difference. Rackin's essay, like that of Jean Howard, illustrates the compatibility of old historicist scholarship with new historicist and feminist approaches to texts. In "The Taming-School: The Taming of the Shrew as Lesson in Renaissance Humanism," Margaret Downs-Gamble rereads Shrew in the context of Renaissance rhetoric, demonstrating that Petru-

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