1st Edition

Maternity and Romance Narratives in Early Modern England

Edited By Karen Bamford, Naomi J. Miller Copyright 2015

    Though recent scholarship has focused both on motherhood and on romance literature in early modern England, until now, no full length volume has addressed the notable intersections between the two topics. This collection contributes to the scholarly investigation of maternity in early modern England by scrutinizing romance narratives in various forms, considering motherhood not as it was actually lived, but as it was figured in the fantasy world of romance by authors ranging from Edmund Spenser to Margaret Cavendish. Contributors explore the traditional association between romance and women, both as readers of fiction and as tellers of ’old wives’ tales,’ as well as the tendency of romance plots, with their emphasis on the family and its reproduction, to foreground matters of maternity. Collectively, the essays in this volume invite reflection on the uses to which Renaissance culture put maternal stereotypes (the virgin mother, the cruel step-dame), as well as the powerful fears and desires that mothers evoke, assuage and sometimes express in the fantasy world of romance.

    Introduction: maternal devices and desires in early modern romance, Karen Bamford. Part I Managing Maternity: While she was sleeping: Spenser’s ‘goodly storie’ of Chrysogone, Susan C. Staub; Deferred motherhood in Spenser’s Faerie Queene, Anne-Marie Strohman; ‘She made her courtiers learned’: Sir Philip Sidney, the Arcadia and his step-dame Elizabeth, Richard Wood; ‘As like Hermione as her picture’: the shadow of incest in The Winter’s Tale, Diane Purkiss; Shakespeare’s maternal transfigurations, Maria Del Sapio Garbero; ‘It hath happened all as I would have had it’: maternal desire in Shakespearean romances, Karen Bamford. Part II Voicing Maternity: Forcible love: performing maternity in Renaissance romance, Naomi J. Miller; ‘Thus did he make her breeding his only business and employment’: absent mothers and male mentors in Margaret Cavendish’s romances', Marianne Micros; The maternal rejection of romance, Julie A. Eckerle. Afterword: untellable tales, Clare R. Kinney; Index.


    Karen Bamford is Professor of English at Mount Allison University, Canada, and author of Sexual Violence on the Jacobean Stage (2000). She is also co-editor of Approaches to Teaching English Renaissance Drama (2002); Oral Traditions and Gender in Early Modern Literary Texts (Ashgate, 2008); and Shakespeare’s Comedies of Love: Essays in Honour of Alexander Leggatt (2008). Naomi J. Miller is Professor of English at Smith College, USA and author of Changing the Subject: Mary Wroth and Figurations of Gender in Early Modern England (1996). She is also the co-editor of Maternal Measures (Ashgate, 2000); Sibling Relations and Gender in the Early Modern World (Ashgate, 2006); Gender and Early Modern Constructions of Childhood (Ashgate, 2011) and Re-Reading Mary Wroth (2015).

    'Maternity and Romance Narratives in Early Modern England makes a genuine contribution to scholarship in the fields of early modern literature, romance, and gender studies, particularly in its use of romance to explore ways in which the anxieties (and sometimes the veneration) of maternity may be managed.' Mary Ellen Lamb, Emeritus, Southern Illinois University, USA