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Gender and Position-Taking in Henrician Verse

Gender and Position-Taking in Henrician Verse: Translation, Transcription, and Tradition (Amsterdam UP, 2023)

Tradition, translation, and transcription in Henrician verse functioned together in systems of communally-created, coded position-taking. Understanding this system as an extensive network of production and reception in which women took on many roles allows for new readings of Henrician verse that emphasize the interpretive range available to contemporary reading and writing communities. This restoration demasculinizes our approach to Henrician verse not only through a more equitable consideration of gender’s functions in that social world, but also in de-emphasizing individualized self-fashioning or authorial intent in favor of an engagement with communal production and shared sociopolitical engagement. The creation in this system is not of a code, but of systems for coding and recognizing position-taking. These communal systems offer a site for the intersection of reader and writer, of transcriber and composer, and of King and courtier in a space that questions, creates, and troubles power in the Henrician court. 

Women's Writing

"Unradical Feminisms: Whitney and the World of Women’s Work"

Isabella Whitney is often celebrated as the first professional woman English writer. Such “firsts”, however, are sticky—a matter of shifting data and definitions. More importantly, a focus on a “first” woman can often obfuscate the reality of women’s historical involvements in a field. When Whitney’s first work was published, the printing press had not yet been in England a full century, and professional writers of any description were still thin on the ground. But women who wrote, who were involved in the book trade, or who otherwise participated in the publishing world were no anomaly. While gender is important to both Whitney’s work and her historical place, this article will prioritize placing those considerations in conversation with the larger contextual community of early modern print. How might we continue to reconceptualize Whitney’s place in the history of women’s writing, circumventing tokenization and promoting a fuller appreciation of all women’s places in the world of early modern writing, print, and books? Whitney’s work then emerges as an exemplar of early professional authorship qua professional authorship, full stop, and as one access point for appreciating the rich and extensive involvement of women in the early English publishing and writing networks.

Shakespeare's Queens

"The Political Aesthetics of Anne Boleyn’s Queenship in Henry VIII, or All is True."

When Shakespeare and Fletcher wrote Henry VIII, or All is True, they were responding to and codifying a political mythology developed within the preceding century. Of particular relevance for Shakespeare and Fletcher’s work was Henry’s political performance in his courtship and marriage of his second queen. Both in history and in the play, the character of Anne Boleyn / Anne Bullen becomes a locus of the shifts caused by Henrician reform in church and state. Because those reforms created threatening instabilities in the social order, Anne’s containment becomes a central concern of the play. In Henry VIII, Anne is made subject to the audience, as well as subject to Henry, as a way of historicizing and containing these instabilities and the resultant English anxieties.

Explorations in Renaissance Culture | 42.4

“Education and Agency in The Miseries of Mavillia.”

In Nicholas Breton’s 1599 Miseries of Mavillia, women’s education is examined as a social good that can be transferred across classes. In the text, education helps to define the title character as a gentlewoman, but that education is gained from a laundress rather than from any fellow member of the upper class. For the less-educated characters, Breton allows the value they place on learning to also serve as a marker of worth. For the better-educated characters, worth is more explicitly coded by a combination of endorsed social status, clear reward, and moral stability. Although the titular Mavillia endures many miseries despite her attainments and status, education acts as, variously, safeguard, surety, and salvation throughout her story. Moreover, Mavillia is able successfully to transfer her education and the legitimacy it confers, thereby creating a “gentlewoman” out of the stubborn daughter of shepherds. In showing Mavillia’s successful transference of that education and its benefits to a woman not born to either, Breton challenges the established social order of restrictive class immobility and emphasizes the potential impact of education on the lives of middle-class and gentry women. Ultimately, Breton’s text argues for education as a potential source of comfort and moral fortitude for women of all backgrounds. Learning, in Breton’s text, is to be privileged for the practical good it allows one to do others, but that practical good generally returns to the women who make good use of their education.

"Domestic Economy and Domestic Security: The English Housewife and her Nation."

As the changing economy of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries led to increased social and physical mobility, the housewife, as a central figure of English domesticity, became an increasingly important figure in Renaissance England. “Her” domestic centrality was made possible by the anxieties and complications accessed through increased travel, mobility, and change. At the same time, these complications led English men and women to create ever stricter definitions to control the role and depiction of the English housewife, in whose image the entire country now had a vested interest. As the English translation of Juan Luis Vives’s Instruction of a Christian Woman, Gervase Markham’s The English Housewife, and Elizabeth Jocelin’s posthumous The Mother’s Legacie to her Unborne Childe reflect, English society invested enormous amounts of energy in attempting to create a stable, safe identity for itself by crafting a stable, safe identity for the housewife. This figure necessarily influenced the way that Englishwomen and men thought and wrote about a definition of the foreign and a particular, domestic, English national identity.

Appositions | 9

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