Autobiography and Gender in Early Modern Literature: Reading Women's Lives 1600-1680/women's Writing in the British Atlantic World, Memory, Place and History, 1550-1700

By Salzman, Paul | Early Modern Literary Studies, January 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

Autobiography and Gender in Early Modern Literature: Reading Women's Lives 1600-1680/women's Writing in the British Atlantic World, Memory, Place and History, 1550-1700


Salzman, Paul, Early Modern Literary Studies


Sharon Cadman Seelig. Autobiography and Gender in Early Modern Literature: Reading Women's Lives 1600-1680 . Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2006. 114pp. ISBN 0 521 85695 7.

Kate Chedgzoy. Women's Writing in the British Atlantic World, Memory, Place and History, 1550-1700 . Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007. 267pp. ISBN 978 0 521 88098 5.

1. These two books are further evidence of the shift in early modern women's writing from the margins of criticism to something approaching the mainstream. They also serve quite neatly to, in Seelig's case, sum up the strengths of some earlier approaches to the field, and, in Chedgzoy's case, point to some exciting new directions.

2. Seelig's book appears almost twenty years after the pioneering anthology, Her Own Life , introduced us to twelve heterogeneous examples of early modern women's autobiographical writing. In some respects, Seelig's analysis of six women represents a more predictable 'canon' than one might expect, given the ever-growing list of examples being brought to light as scholars continue their fruitful work on manuscript material in particular. I do wonder if it is now the case that Margaret Hoby, Anne Clifford, Lucy Hutchinson, Ann Fanshawe, Anne Halkett and Margaret Cavendish can serve to represent the full range of women's writing of an autobiographical cast. Seelig offers sound, scholarly summations of this material, and her approach will appeal to those in search of a more traditional, literary analysis of writing that is still, in the wider world, shaking off the stigma of being of interest only to social historians. Seelig is prepared to ask some straightforward questions about this material (eg. Isn't Hoby's diary exceedingly monotonous?)and provide some straightforward answers, and accordingly her book will be valuable for undergraduates, who tend to ask such questions and require such answers.

3. Seelig is a fine and meticulous reader of diaries like Hoby's and Clifford's, but they are read from a perspective that seeks forms of selfhood. This approach tends to set aside consideration of the way that a woman like Clifford can be seen as having considerable political agency, as evidenced in recent work by Mihoko Suzuki, Susan Wiseman, and, indeed, as demonstrated in a chapter in Chedgzoy's book. In a similar fashion, Seelig's account of Halkett's biography, which analyses it largely in relation to narrative structure, can be contrasted with the sophisticated account in Susan Wiseman's Conspiracy and Virtue (published in the same year as Seelig's book), which unpacks the political implications of Halkett's memoir in the context of both the time of its writing and the earlier civil war events it recounts.

4. This politically nuanced approach to early modern women's writing is evident throughout Kate Chedgzoy's ground-breaking book. Chedgzoy analyses early modern women's writing and oral literature as involving a nexus of place and memory. Acts of women's memorialising, in Chedgzoy's terms, leave 'textual traces across many genres and modes of transmission of their efforts to recollect, interpret and communicate their experiences in a changing world' (3). And the 'world' Chedgzoy's study encompasses is the world of the Atlantic archipelago, so that she is able to align writers who have often in the past been placed in national ghettos. As well, her reach into oral as well as literary traditions in Wales and Ireland, and her attention to voices often unheard within anglophone culture, produces a kind of postcolonial rescue of traces that have to be recovered from a colonising erasure.

5. So Chedgzoy offers a fascinating chapter on how women drew upon the training in memory that was part of a general humanist heritage and its intersection with commonplace books. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Autobiography and Gender in Early Modern Literature: Reading Women's Lives 1600-1680/women's Writing in the British Atlantic World, Memory, Place and History, 1550-1700
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.