The ten essays in this collection explore the discrete yet overlapping female spaces of privacy and domesticity in early modern England. While other literary critics have focused their studies of female privacy on widows, witches, female recusants and criminals, the contributors to this collection propose that the early modern subculture of femaleness is more expansive and formative than is typically understood. They maintain that the subculture includes segregated, sometimes secluded, domestic places for primarily female activities like nursing, sewing, cooking, and caring for children and the sick. It also includes hidden psychological realms of privacy, organized by women's personal habits, around intimate friendships or kinship, and behind institutional powerlessness. The texts discussed in the volume include plays not only by Shakespeare but also Ford, Wroth, Marvell, Spenser and Cavendish, among others. Through the lens of literature, contributors consider the unstructured, fluid quality of much everyday female experience as well as the dimensions, symbols, and the ever-changing politics and culture of the household. They analyze the complex habits of female settings-the verbal, spatial, and affective strategies of early-modern women's culture, including private rituals, domestic practices, and erotic attachments-in order to provide a broader picture of female culture and of female authority. The authors argue-through a range of critical approaches that include feminist, historical, and psychoanalytic-that early modern women often transformed their confinement into something useful and necessary, creating protected and even sacred spaces with their own symbols and aesthetic.
Table of Contents
Contents: Introduction: 'indistinguished space', Elizabeth Mazzola and Corinne S. Abate; 'Concealing Continents': Settings for intimacy and resistance: With the skin side inside: the interiors of The Duchess of Malfi, Lisa Hopkins; Neither a tamer nor a shrew be: a defense of Petruchio and Katherine, Corinne S. Abate; 'Wounds still curelesse': estates of loss in Mary Wroth's Urania, Kathryn Pratt; 'Hospitable Favors': Rituals of the Household: Trafficking in John Ford's The Broken Heart, Nancy A. Gutierrez; Good enough to eat: the domestic economy of woman-woman eroticism in Margaret Cavendish and Andrew Marvell, Theodora A. Jankowski; 'Thy weaker novice to perform thy will': female dominion over male identity in The Faerie Queene, Catherine G. Canino; 'Scanted Courtesies': Family dynamics and dispositions: 'Natural' boys and 'hard' stepmothers: Sidney and Elizabeth, Elizabeth Mazzola: Mystical sororities: the power of supernatural female narratives in Lady Mary Wroth's Urania, Sheila T. Cavanagh; Looking for Goneril and Regan, Cristina LeÃ³n Alfar; Index.
'The essays in Corinne S. Abate's Privacy, Domesticity, and Women in Early Modern England represent an innovative contribution to this work. The ten essays are prefaced by a valuable introduction by Abate and Elizabeth Mazzola.' Renaissance Journal '... this book with its clearly written, thoughtful, and compelling analyses of privacy in early modern literature will be a welcome addition to any scholar's shelf; it does much to distinguish that 'indistinguished space of women's will'.' Renaissance Quarterly 'Abate has gathered a wide-ranging set of essays that on the whole brings to light valuable perspectives on the inner lives of the women who inhabit early modern English fiction... These studies can be the basis of stimulting debate on the importance of the fluid and obscure realms of female existence.' Sixteenth Century Journal '... the collection of essays is a welcome addition to gender studies, exploring 'indistinguished space'...' Parergon