Learning and Literacy in Female Hands, 1520-1698: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Learning and Literacy in Female Hands, 1520-1698

1st Edition

By Elizabeth Mazzola


154 pages

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Hardback: 9781409453758
pub: 2013-08-23
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315591872
pub: 2016-04-22
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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.


'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

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.

About the Author

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.

About the Series

Women and Gender in the Early Modern World

Women and Gender in the Early Modern World
The study of women and gender offers some of the most vital and innovative challenges to current scholarship on the early modern period. For more than a decade now, Women and Gender in the Early Modern World has served as a forum for presenting fresh ideas and original approaches to the field. Interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary in scope, this Routledge series strives to reach beyond geographical limitations to explore the experiences of early modern women and the nature of gender in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa. We welcome proposals for both single-author volumes and edited collections which expand and develop this continually evolving field of study.

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