Learning and Literacy in Female Hands, 1520-1698  book cover
1st Edition

Learning and Literacy in Female Hands, 1520-1698

ISBN 9781409453758
Published August 23, 2013 by Routledge
154 Pages

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Book Description

Focusing on the unusual learning and schooling of women in early modern England, this study explores how and why women wrote, the myriad forms their alphabets could assume, and the shape which vernacular literacy acquired in their hands. Elizabeth Mazzola argues that early modern women's writings often challenged the lessons of their male teachers, since they were designed to conceal rather than reveal women's learning and schooling. Employed by early modern women with great learning and much art, such difficult or ’resistant’ literacy organized households and administrative offices alike, and transformed the broader history of literacy in the West. Chapters treat writers like Jane Sharp, Anne Southwell, Jane Seager, Martha Moulsworth, Elizabeth Tudor, and Katherine Parr alongside images of women writers presented by Shakespeare and Sidney. Managing women's literacy also concerned early modern statesmen and secretaries, writing masters and grammarians, and Mazzola analyzes how both the emerging vernacular and a developing bureaucratic state were informed by these contests over women's hands.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Tutors and tailors; ’Blabbs’ and cryptographers; Goneril and Oswald; Robert Dorsett’s classroom; Learning to curse and learning to nurse; Bibliography; Index.

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Elizabeth Mazzola is Professor of English at The City College of New York, CUNY. Among her three previous books is Women's Wealth and Women's Writing.


'Elizabeth Mazzola's Learning and Literacy in Female Hands, 1520-1698 is a rich, compelling, wide-ranging study that illuminates the intricate and shifting complexity of early modern women’s literacy. It treats men’s and women’s texts alongside each other to highlight gendered differences in modes of reading and writing, and it admirably insists upon recognizing the multiplicity of literacies at stake during this transformative period.' Pamela Hammons, University of Miami, USA, and author of Gender, Sexuality, and Material Objects in English Renaissance Verse 'Mazzola’s book is engaging - and the call to explore the literacy of illiterate men and women in early modern England is enticing...' Times Literary Supplement 'In this book, Mazzola explores the many forms of female literacy in early modern culture. She engages with what she describes as "rough hands and corrupt texts" and convincingly argues that these, often produced by women, possessed a value not always recognized at the time, nor in more modern scholarship. This is her great contribution to the discussions of female literacy of the early modern period. She brings together a large cast of female writers, from Elizabeth I to the desperate Anne Peace, to convincingly argue that female literacy, while taking a number of forms and eliciting ambiguous responses, was widespread and widely practiced, leaving a rich legacy of female voices.' Seventeenth-Century News '... the book develops a centrifugal energy, the result of constant movement from one text to another. It does the valuable work of furthering our sense of the complexities of and diversity within women’s writing literacy ...' Renaissance Quarterly 'Mazzola weaves in her book a fascinating, multi-faceted tapestry, demonstrating the importance, the power, and effectiveness of the letters written by these women ...' Parergon