English 9189B

Women and Authorship in Early Modern England

Instructor: Professor M. Bassnett
Winter Half Course.

This course will examine sixteenth- and seventeenth-century writing by women in relation to modern and historical theories of authorship. Like men, women were busy (re-)defining themselves as authors within the new public context of print culture while also retaining a foothold in the world of the manuscript. Unlike men, women also had to grapple with lower levels of literacy and greater cultural and religious restrictions on speech and conduct, and gender frequently shaped generic choices and literary expression. Yet gender was not the only influence on authorial self-construction. Class, family connections, financial need, and religious and political allegiances likewise contributed to how women understood the relationship between themselves, the act of writing, and the range of identities they could take on as authors. Primary texts may include: manuscript work, including recipes, accounts, letters, and commonplace books, manuscript and print autobiographies, prefatory material, poetry, prose, and drama, and ventriloquized texts that are either penned under women’s names, or use the narrative voice of a woman.