Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Mother's Legacy in Early Modern England/English Women, Religion, and Textual Production, 1500 - 1625/gender and Early Modern Constructions of Childhood

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

The Mother's Legacy in Early Modern England/English Women, Religion, and Textual Production, 1500 - 1625/gender and Early Modern Constructions of Childhood

Article excerpt

The Mother's Legacy in Early Modem England. Jennifer Heller. (Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, 2011, Pp ix, 234. $107.96); English Women, Religion, and Textual Production, 1500 - 1625. Edited by Micheline White. (Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, 2011, Pp xiii, 252. $107.96); Gender and Early Modem Constructions of Childhood. Edited by Naomi J. Miller and Naomi Yavneh. (Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, 2011, Pp xv, 248. $109.96.)

These three volumes add to the growing Ashgate series, "Women and Gender in the Early Modern World." All, the authors make use of the tools of modern gender studies to explore a particular historical context through certain of its literary, religious, or artistic artefacts. Some but not all of those artefacts are texts by women. None are of the kind sought by an earlier generation of feminist scholars who hoped to retrieve and celebrate a hidden history of female agency or to praise subversive foremothers. Instead, the women, girls, and otherwise gendered bodies, lives, texts, and objects explored by the writers are deftly examined in their context of strongly stratified early modern culture, with its gender roles that slowly evolved and were only very occasionally resisted.

Jennifer Heller's The Mother's Legacy in Early Modem England is a monograph on a particular literary genre which has both manuscript and printed forms. Some legacies were bestsellers, and some were written by men. Others were passed down within families. All are written to children, use a maternal voice, and are cast in the form of deathbed advice. Many have strong echoes of other cultural traditions and muchcirculated texts about death and dying, while recasting this material in more emotionally charged ways appropriate to the persona of a dying mother. Legacies also offer religious advice, varied according to the period and the mother's protestant or catholic faith. Though many of the mothers who wrote such a legacy, memoir or blessing were classically educated, their piety rather than their education had to shine through. Girl-children received different advice from that offered to boys, upholding conventional gender hierarchies.

English Women, Religion, and Textual Production, 1500 - 1625 collects ten chapters by different authors, grouped under the headings of "Women and Religious Communities" and "Reading Intertextual Prose Genres." It aims to recover, historicize, and theorize women's religious writing (4). …

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