Women's Writing in English: Early Modern England

Description

363 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
$32.95
ISBN 0-8020-8664-0
DDC 820.9'9287'09031

Year

2005

Contributor

Elisabeth Anne MacDonald-Murray teaches English literature at Brandon
University in Manitoba.

Review

In this latest addition to the Women’s Writing in English series,
Patricia Demers provides a comprehensive introduction to the literary
contribution of early modern women to the English canon. Beginning with
a detailed overview of the scholarship over the past two decades, Demers
highlights both the scope and direction of the “continuing
conversation about the roles of women ... in early modern England,” as
well as the developing trends and perspectives in the critical reception
of early modern women’s writings. In her wide-ranging discussion of
the private and public realities of women’s lives from the early 16th
century to the Restoration in the late 17th century, Demers emphasizes
both the breadth and complexity of the historical and cultural contexts
in which these women wrote. Her examination of the genres early modern
women writers employed reveals the many influences exerted on these
women, and points to the “intricately braided relationships of texts,
families, and cultural conventions.” She concludes her text with a
more in-depth exploration of six major early modern women authors—Mary
Sidney Herbert, Aemilia Lanyer, Elizabeth Tanfield Cary, Lady Mary
Wroth, Margaret Cavendish, and Katherine Philips—in which she
discusses their texts in light of their social, familial, and literary
contexts.

Demers’s text does an admirable job of introducing the burgeoning
field of scholarship in early modern women’s lives and writings. She
has organized and presented the wealth of material currently available
in a format that is easy to access and comprehend without reducing her
subject to oversimplified categories, or losing a sense of the breadth
and complexity of the period and the people. She includes an appendix
titled “Women and the Rise of Print Culture,” as well as
chronologies of both early modern women writers and English and European
historical events. The extensive bibliography is thorough, covering not
only primary and secondary sources, but also texts on women’s history,
early modern literature and history, and critical theoretical
perspectives. This volume is a must-buy for any university library and
should probably be required reading in all early modern literature
courses.

Citation

Demers, Patricia., “Women's Writing in English: Early Modern England,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/30584.