Early literature


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Early literature

  1. 1. Medieval and Renaissance Voices
  2. 2. Medieval and Renaissance Literature <ul><li>Much early literature took the form of poetry. </li></ul><ul><li>It is difficult to attribute some of the earliest poetry in the English language, from the Anglo-Saxon period, to female writers, as there is no definite evidence the women truly wrote them. </li></ul><ul><li>Some may be “female voiced” poems written by men, for example “The Wife’s Lament,” and “Wulf and Eadwacer” </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>It is easy for us, with early 21 st century perspective, to oversimplify the past: religion for early women was all pervasive, not just a once-a-week practice </li></ul><ul><li>Patriarchal culture was upheld by women </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>Misogynistic thinking and preaching was upheld by and disseminated by women </li></ul><ul><li>Therefore their literature is easy to misread, as not all texts with a female name associated with them were necessarily written by women, and ‘women’ (female characters) on stage were not even women at all, until the middle of the 17 th century. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Forms of Early Literature <ul><li>Religious writing </li></ul><ul><li>Translations </li></ul><ul><li>Conduct handbooks </li></ul><ul><li>Courtly writing </li></ul>
  6. 6. <ul><li>We see two themes in early literature: </li></ul><ul><li>First, female transgression and the male punishing of transgression </li></ul><ul><li>Second, the theme of public versus private: what can a woman say or write publicly? What can she say or write privately? </li></ul>
  7. 7. Courtly Literature <ul><li>Courtly literature deserves a mention. It took two main forms: </li></ul><ul><li>The ideal of “courtly love” in the Middle Ages: a male lover laments his desire for an unyielding, unobtainable mistress </li></ul><ul><li>think Lancelot and Guinivere, or Petrarch’s sonnets to Laura </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>Neo-Platonic philosophy advocating unconsummated passion as spiritually elevating </li></ul><ul><li>Secularization of Mariolatry: women as muse and mediator of writing </li></ul><ul><li>Men as producers of writing, women as receptacles of it </li></ul>
  9. 9. <ul><li>Courtly Panegyrics , poems that praise in verse a would-be patron or monarch </li></ul><ul><li>It was considered vulgar, ungentlemanly to write for print publication (that is, for the public). </li></ul>
  10. 10. <ul><li>Most courtly writers, therefore, wrote manuscripts that were unsigned, and therefore much went un-attributed. </li></ul><ul><li>Who was the writer? Men using female voices, which was typical in both Medieval and Renaissance poetry? Women writing to one another? </li></ul>
  11. 11. Courtly Women Writers <ul><li>Mary, Queen of Scots </li></ul><ul><li>Elizabeth I </li></ul><ul><li>Lady Mary Sidney </li></ul><ul><li>Lady Mary Wroth </li></ul><ul><li>Elizabeth Cary </li></ul><ul><li>These women represent the power of the female patroness. </li></ul>
  12. 12. <ul><li>The issue becomes one of a contrast between outward behavior versus inner feeling , and defense against intrusive interpreters </li></ul><ul><li>Often, aristocratic women wrote personal, sincere expressions not intended for any but a small circle, which are, expediently, allowed to “leak,” making them “public.” </li></ul>
  13. 13. <ul><li>For example, Mary Sidney’s admonition to Elizabeth I to be a better Protestant, and to encourage Protestantism throughout the world </li></ul><ul><li>Sidney veils this in a panegyric dedication presenting herself as the seemingly humble and submissive translator of the Psalms. </li></ul>
  14. 14. <ul><li>Courtly writing represents the overlapping of public and private, relativism in a culture transitioning from manuscript to print </li></ul><ul><li>This gives women the opportunity to ‘claim’ privacy as a pose for self-expression, to make “eloquent disclaimers” of ineloquence, </li></ul><ul><li>Women could proclaim reluctance to write as the pose for the act of writing itself, thus “publicizing its own privacy.” </li></ul>
  15. 15. <ul><li>Twentieth century people see writers as elite members of a metaphorical priesthood </li></ul><ul><li>In the Middle Ages writers were literally male Catholic priests. </li></ul>
  16. 16. <ul><li>Early notions of authorship were unstable and complex. Male and female writers could adopt the persona of the “humble transmitter of God’s divine authority”; few texts call attention to individual writers. </li></ul><ul><li>For example, Julian of Norwich, Margary Kempe don’t claim the words as their own, and therefore aren’t responsible for what they say, or thus punishable for transgressive language. </li></ul>
  17. 17. <ul><li>This begins to change when writing for pay to an unknown, unseen general audience began in the mid-1500s, during the reign of Henry VIII and the Reformation. </li></ul><ul><li>Literary patronage and manuscript circulation lasts through the 18 th century, but printing changes notions of authorship. </li></ul><ul><li>Printing is especially important for women writers – if they owned the text, they could sell it. </li></ul>