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Early literature
Early literature
Early literature
Early literature
Early literature
Early literature
Early literature
Early literature
Early literature
Early literature
Early literature
Early literature
Early literature
Early literature
Early literature
Early literature
Early literature
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Early literature

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  • 1. Medieval and Renaissance Voices
  • 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. <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. <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. 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. <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. 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. <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. <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. <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. 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. <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. <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. <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. <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. <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. <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>

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