Biblical Women's Voices in Early Modern England  book cover
1st Edition

Biblical Women's Voices in Early Modern England

ISBN 9781138265905
Published November 10, 2016 by Routledge
202 Pages

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Book Description

Biblical Women's Voices in Early Modern England documents the extent to which portrayals of women writers, rulers, and leaders in the Hebrew Bible scripted the lives of women in early modern England. Attending to a broad range of writing by Protestant men and women, including John Donne, Mary Sidney, John Milton, Rachel Speght, and Aemilia Lanyer, the author investigates how the cultural requirement for feminine silence informs early modern readings of biblical women's stories, and furthermore, how these biblical characters were used to counteract cultural constraints on women's speech. Bringing to bear a commanding knowledge of Hebrew Scripture, Michele Osherow presents a series of case studies on biblical heroines, juxtaposing Old Testament stories with early modern writers and texts. The case studies include an investigation of references to Miriam in Lady Mary Sidney's psalm translations; an unpacking of comparisons between Deborah and Elizabeth I; and, importantly, a consideration of the feminization of King David through analysis of his appropriation as a model for early modern women in writings by both male and female authors. In deciphering the abundance of biblical characters, citations, and allusions in early modern texts, Osherow simultaneously demonstrates how biblical stories of powerful women challenged the Renaissance notion that women should be silent, and explores the complexities and contradictions surrounding early modern women, their speech, and their power.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: 'Even I wil sing'; 'Should she not be ashamed?': constructing Mary Sidney as a Renaissance Miriam; 'My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies': Hannah and the consequence of private prayer; 'Give ear o princes': Deborah as a model for female authority; 'Naked against the enemy': the feminization of David; Epilogue: none can resist her words; Bibliography; Indexes.

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Michele Osherow is Assistant Professor of English and Affiliate Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County


'As Osherow demonstrates through a powerful series of case-studies, sixteenth- and seventeenth-century writers responded not simply to English cultural constraints, but to transhistorical and transcultural conditions mediated through the ancient texts that comprised the Protestant canon of Scripture. One of the most powerful impressions conveyed by the book is that of an English canon of women's writing developing in direct response to an earlier instance of canon formation recorded in Hebrew Scripture.' John Watkins, University of Minnesota, USA and author of Representing Elizabeth in Stuart England: Literature, History, Sovereignty 'Beautifully written and thoroughly researched, Michele Osherow's study demonstrates a wide knowledge and understanding of both the Old Testament and early modern English texts, and allows us to understand the complexities and contradictions in women's search for speech and power. Carole Levin, University of Nebraska, USA and author of Dreaming the English Renaissance: Politics and Desire in Court Culture 'Without downplaying the restrictions facing Early Modern women, Osherow demonstrates the power of biblical women’s voices for those who asserted a woman’s right to speak and publish in the English Renaissance era. I strongly recommend this accessible and engaging study.' Parergon 'Biblical Women's Voices in Early Modern England is an ambitious and stimulating discussion of biblical reception in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. ...[It] makes a significant contribution to one of the most important theoretical trends in the study of biblical reception in the early modern world.' Theological Book Review 'What is so successful about Osherow's work is the way in which she locates a rhetoric model - one often initially defined by powerful women, like Queen Elizabeth - and maps its movement into popular literature, private devotional writings, and beyond. ...This work will prove useful to both scholars of early modern