Philobiblon: More women writers pop up

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

More women writers pop up

At the history conference on the weekend, there was some discussion of the stage that the study of Renaissance (or early modern) women writers had reached. The broad framework seems to be that there are three: discovery and initial propogation (i.e. the publishing of their works in an accessible form); detailed study of them as women writers; then insertion into the general canon. (Which some would say is the stage we are/should be at now.)

Yet stage one under this schema is far from over. The latest issue of the excellent web-based Early Modern Literary Studies (one of the pioneers in this area, I believe) introduces Jane Cavendish and Elizabeth Brackley, the oldest daughters of the William, Duke of Newcastle (who married the redoubtable Margaret Cavendish, who is now virtually an industry all of her own). But the younger generation are certainly new to me.

The two are the only known collaborative female dramatists of the period, and their verse and dramatic works are known to have been composed during the years that the English Civil War was fought, rather than during the Interregnum. Their works are, therefore, particularly valuable to both literary and historical researchers of the period because they simultaneously play with established generic conventions and tell us a great deal at first hand about the conditions of aristocratic life during the seventeenth-century national meltdown.

This seems to me to support a vaguely formed theory in my head - which I'd like to explore at length some time - that through the early modern period there are extensive female networks, running mainly but not exclusively through families, that encouraged education and literary production.
Link found on Early Modern Notes.


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