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Workshop programme

Women and the Male Literary Establishment, 1600-1700

Elizabeth Clarke

Workshop programme

In advance of the course please read the introduction to Bernard Capp’s book When Gossips Meet (OUP, 2003) which is a very good sketch of the way gender ideology operates in early modern England and gives a good indication of authorship conditions for women at the start of the seventeenth century.

  1. Mother’s Legacies

In the early part of the century the most frequently printed works by women were ‘Mother’s Legacies’. These were often introduced by men. Sylvia Brown in Women’s Writing in Jacobean England  (Sutton, 1999) argues that Elizabeth Joscelin’s manuscript was substantially altered by its male author, and we shall be investigating that claim. Wendy Wall in The Imprint of Gender (Cornell, 1993) discusses the importance of the women writer being dead at the moment of publication, a position that we shall discuss, especially in the light of the fact that in the last of the Mother’s Legacies—Elizabeth Richardson’s—the author was very much alive.

Texts: Sylvia Brown, Women’s Writing in Jacobean England  (Sutton, 1999): photocopies from Brown and Wall will be available

Available on Renaissance Women Writers Online, with contextual materials:

Dorothy Leigh, The Mother’s Blessing (1616)

Available on Early English Books Online:

Elizabeth Jocelin, A Mother’s Legacie to her Unborn Child (1624)

Elizabeth Richardson, A Ladies Legacie to her Daughters (1645)

Victoria Burke’s article on Elizabeth Richardson’s manuscripts in English Manuscript Studies no. 8 may also be of interest.

Sessions 2 and 3: Early poets

These two sessions consider two brave early women writers of the century, from very different backgrounds: Aemilia Lanyer and Lady Mary Wroth. We will be looking at their conscious feminisation of two explicitly male literary projects: the quest for patronage and the Petrarchan poetic mode. These two sessions will involve student presentations.

Available on Renaissance Women Writers Online, with contextual materials:

Aemilia Lanyer, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum, 1611

Compare Cookeham  with Jonson’s To Penshurst (readily available)

Good website:

Susanne Woods, Lanyer: a Renaissance woman poet (Oxford University Press, 1999).

Sondergard, Sidney L.. Sharpening Her Pen: Strategies of Rhetorical Violence by Early Modern English Women Writers. Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Press. 2002 has chapters on Lanyer and Wroth.

For Wroth, there are some editions of poems in the library, but these websites are helpful:

For texts, essays (and nice music!)

Sections from the forthcoming edition of the Perdita Project’s anthology of manuscript verse will also be made available.

Session 4: Anne Southwell: a female John Donne?

Anne Southwell’s manuscripts are a fascinating insight into the mind of one literary woman, and her attitude to the male literary establishment. She reflects in her poetry on her own literary practice in her youth, and in an interestingly misogynist publication we have some examples of her playing a rhetorical game with John Donne and other court wits including Cecily Bulstrode in a printed publication (on EEBO: A Wife. Now the widdow of Sir Tho: Overburye Being a most exquisite and singular poem of the choice of a wife. Whereunto are added many witty characters, and conceited newes, written by himselfe and other learned gentlemen his friends (1614), sigs F4r and G2v). In later years, however, she deliberately toned down her rhetorical style in line with what seems to be an increasing Puritanism: and she is self-conscious about this change, and about the particular problems facing a woman poet (and prophetess—a role she seems at times to aspire to). She is not afraid to criticise men, and writes a Defence of Eve poem (as Lanyer did). Her early games entries are at least as good as Donne’s but she chose to write in an anti-aesthetic style which perhaps sheds light on why female poets are never thought to be as good as men.

Jean Klene, The Sibthorpe-Southwell Commonplace-Book (MRTS, 1996)

Louise Schleiner, Tudor and Stuart Women Writers (Indiana UP, 1994)

Sections from the forthcoming edition of the Perdita Project’s anthology of manuscript verse will be made available.


Session 5: Prophetesses

This session explores what is mostly a 1640s and 1650s phenomenon and explores historical and cultural reasons for its emergence in this period. We shall divide into groups to look at Katharine Chidley, an Independent who became a Leveller, Anna Trapnel, a Fifth Monarchist, and Margaret Fell Fox, who was a pioneer of the Quaker movement, exploring their self-construction and the attitude to femininity it implies.

RenaissanceWomen Writers Online, with contextual materials. See also Topic Essays on Radical Sects by Hilary Hinds and Writing during the Civil War by Nigel Smith

Katharine Chidley, The Justification of the Independent Churches of Christ, 1641

Good Counsel, to the Petitioners for Presbyterian Government, That they may declare their Faith before they build their Church 1645

Anna Trapnel, The Cry of a Stone1654

Strange and Wonderful News 1654

Margaret Fell Fox, A Declaration and an Information from us the People of God Called Quakers, 1660

An Evident Demonstration to Gods Elect, 1660

A Loving Salutation to the Seed of Abraham, 1656

This Was Given to Major General Harrison and the Rest, 1660

Women's Speaking Justified, 1667

We will also look at Diane Purkiss’ article ‘Producing the Voice, Consuming the Body’ in eds Isobel Grundy and Susan Wiseman, Women, Writing, History 1640-1740 (Batsford, 1992) and Sue Wiseman’s article, ‘Unsilent Instruments and the Devil’s Cushions’ in ed. Isobel Armstrong, New Feminist Discourses (Routledge, 1992)

Sessions 6and 7 Hester Pulter (who?) and Katherine Philips

This session looks at two Royalist women poets from the Interregnum, who wrote in manuscript. One is not known at all: the other became the most famous woman poet of the seventeenth century. In particular we shall be looking at their different approaches to writing as a woman. We will be looking at the factors in the relative success of one and the other, both intra-textual and extra-textual.

Extracts from the manuscripts of the two women will be provided from the forthcoming Perdita anthology.

From the WWP database, see Katherine Philips’ Poems in the unauthorised 1664 edition and in the posthumous 1667 edition.

The standard modern edition of Philips and her poems is in three volumes (Poems, ed. Patrick Thomas; Letters, ed. Patrick Thomas; Translations, ed. Germaine Greer) from Stump Cross Books (1990-3)

Peter Beal’s chapter on Philips in In Praise of Scribes (OUP,1999) is important for this session. Someone who disagrees with Beal is Germaine Greer: see her chapter in Slipshod Sibyls: Recognition, Rejection and the Woman Poet (Penguin, 1995)

Another excellent article is by Harriette Andreadis, 'The Sapphic-Platonics of Katherine Philips' in Signs, 15 (1989), 34-60

A good account of Philips and other women seeking for authority in a male literary establishment is Carol Barash, English Women's Poetry, 1649-1714: Politics, Community, and Linguistic Authority (Clarendon, 1996).

An interesting theoretical account of gender in Philips’ poems is in James Loxley, 'Unfettered Organs: the Polemical Voices of Katherine Philips' in Danielle Clarke and Elizabeth Clarke (eds.), 'This Double Voice': Gendered Writing in Early Modern England (Macmillan, 2000), 230-248.

8. Lucy Hutchinson, epic poet

Lucy Hutchinson was somewhat of a clandestine author, writing from opposition to the court for most of her life, and keeping her work in manuscript, apart from the anonymously published Order and Disorder (1679). This epic is now in a modern edition by David Norbrook with Blackwell’s. She was an ambitious author who wrote in various genres and with differing authorial strategies. This session will include work in progress from the forthcoming Complete Works of Lucy Hutchinson edited by David Norbrook. The famous life of her husband has been published many times: the latest edition is Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson, ed Neil Keeble (Everyman, 2001). We will also be looking at David Norbrook’s edition in ELR  27 (1997), 468-521 of Lucy Hutchinson’s elegies for her husband.

See Norbrook, David, ‘Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson’, in David Womersley, ed., The Blackwell Companion to Literature from Milton to Blake (Oxford, 2000) For a different view of Lucy Hutchinson, see “The Colonel’s Shadow” by Neil Keeble, in Literature and the English Civil Waredited by Thomas Healy and Jonathan Sawday. (Cambridge University Press, 1990)

Session 9. Aphra Behn

Aphra Behn was a commercial success in huge terms in the Restoration—she was second only to Dryden in theatrical output. This session has some fun reading lots of her plays in an Oxford World’s Classics edition: The rover ; The feigned courtesans ; The lucky chance ; The emperor of the moon, ed Jane Spencer. Oxford University Press, c1995. We speculate why she was the first woman to earn her living by her pen.

Lots of good websites—here are two.

Hughes, Derek, The Theatre of Aphra Behn (Macmillan, 2001)

Medoff, Jeslyn. "The Daughters of Behn and the Problems of Reputation." In Isobel Grundy and Susan Wiseman, eds. Women, Writing, History: 1640-1799. Athens: U of Georgia P, 1992. 33-54.

Feldwick, Arlen. "Wits, Whigs, and Women: Domestic Politics as Anti-Whig Rhetoric in Aphra Behn's Town Comedies." In Carole Levin and Patricia A. Sullivan, eds. Political Rhetoric, Power, and Renaissance Women Albany, NY: State U of NY P, 1995. 223-240.

Goreau, Angeline. Reconstructing Aphra: A Social Biography of Aphra Behn. New York: Dial, 1980.

Session 10: Elizabeth Singer Rowe, ‘The Pindaric Lady’

In this session we will be looking at the early poems--Poems on Several Occasions, 1696 (on EEBO)—of Elizabeth Singer. Her fascinating career as ‘Philomela’, meant that she was taken up by The Athenian Mercury  as their favourite poet at a very young age. By the time we study this writer I hope Sarah Prescott’s book will be out--Women, Authorship and Literary Culture 1690 - 1740 (Forthcoming, Palgrave 2003). There is a good article on her in Justice, George and Tinker, Nathan, eds, Women’s Writing and the Circulation of Ideas:  Manuscript Publication in English 1550-1800, George Justice and Nathan Tinker, (CUP, 2001)