Genre and Women's Life Writing in Early Modern England

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  • Edited by Michelle M. Dowd, University of North Carolina-Greensboro, USA and Julie A. Eckerle, University of Minnesota, Morris, USA
  • Series: Women and Gender in the Early Modern World
  • By taking account of the ways in which early modern women made use of formal and generic structures to constitute themselves in writing, the essays collected here interrogate the discursive contours of gendered identity in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. The contributors explore how generic choice, mixture, and revision influence narrative constructions of the female self in early modern England. Collectively they situate women's life writings within the broader textual culture of early modern England while maintaining a focus on the particular rhetorical devices and narrative structures that comprise individual texts.

    Reconsidering women's life writing in light of recent critical trends-most notably historical formalism-this volume produces both new readings of early modern texts (such as Margaret Cavendish's autobiography and the diary of Anne Clifford) and a new understanding of the complex relationships between literary forms and early modern women's 'selves'.

    This volume engages with new critical methods to make innovative connections between canonical and non-canonical writing; in so doing, it helps to shape the future of scholarship on early modern women.
  • Contents: Introduction, Michelle M. Dowd and Julie A. Eckerle; 'Free and easy as ones discourse'?: genre and self-expression in the poems and letters of early modern Englishwomen, Helen Wilcox; Domestic papers: manuscript culture and early modern women's life writing, Margaret Ezell; 'Many hands hands': writing the self in early modern women's recipe books, Catherine Field; Serial identity: history, gender, and form in the diary writing of Lady Anne Clifford, Megan Matchinske; Merging the secular and the spiritual in Lady Anne Halkett's Memoirs, Mary Ellen Lamb; Prefacing texts, authorizing authors, and constructing selves: the preface as autobiographical space, Julie A. Eckerle; Structures of piety in Elizabeth Richardson's Legacie, Michelle M. Dowd; Intersubjectivity, intertextuality, and form in the self-writings of Margaret Cavendish, Elspeth Graham; Margaret Cavendish's domestic experiment, Lara Dodds; 'That all the world may know': women's 'defense-narratives' and the early novel, Josephine Donovan; Bibliography; Index.
  • About the Editor: Michelle M. Dowd is Assistant Professor of English at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, USA. Julie A. Eckerle is Assistant Professor of English, University of Minnesota, Morris, USA
  • Reviews: '…makes an important contribution to the study of early modern women by its distinctive focus on generic innovation, women’s life writings, and the construction of the female self. The historicist approach of the volume is original and compelling, and the essays make a major contribution to gender studies by demonstrating how women’s identities are formed in rich and complex texts and contexts. The volume is not only theoretically astute, but meticulous throughout in its use of primary and secondary sources.'
    Laura Knoppers, Penn State University, USA

    ‘… this is indeed a useful collection that expands our understanding both of literary genres and of women's rhetorical self presentations in the early modern period.’ Renaissance Quarterly