Juxtaposing life writing and romance, this study offers the first book-length exploration of the dynamic and complex relationship between the two genres. In so doing, it operates at the intersection of several recent trends: interest in women's contributions to autobiography; greater awareness of the diversity and flexibility of auto/biographical forms in the early modern period; and the use of manuscripts and other material evidence to trace literacy practices. Through analysis of a wide variety of life writings by early modern Englishwomen-including Elizabeth Delaval, Dorothy Calthorpe, Ann Fanshawe, and Anne Halkett-Julie A. Eckerle demonstrates that these women were not only familiar with the controversial romance genre but also deeply influenced by it. Romance, she argues, with its unending tales of unsatisfying love, spoke to something in women's experience; offered a model by which they could recount their own disappointments in a world where arranged marriage and often loveless matches ruled the day; and exerted a powerful, pervasive pressure on their textual self-formations. Romancing the Self in Early Modern Englishwomen's Life Writing documents a vibrant secular form of auto/biographical writing that coexisted alongside numerous spiritual forms, providing a much more nuanced and complete understanding of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century women's reading and writing literacies.
'Bringing together two strands of scholarship-romance and life-writing, Julie Eckerle provides deep and sometimes unexpected insights into each. This study represents a highly significant contribution to the field that will be much-cited in future criticism.' Mary Ellen Lamb, Southern Illinois University, USA 'Eckerle's most innovative contribution to women's literary history, and the heart of her book, is the detailed analysis of the life writing texts themselves … The interweaving of primary sources from across the centuries … creates suggestive juxtapositions and establishes the significance of romance narratives for women as readers and writers. At the same time, it offers a welcome reminder of the potential of life writing to complicate and enrich our histories of reading.' SHARP News '… illuminating new book … our understanding of the historical complexity of selfnarrative is enriched by this fascinating study.' Renaissance Quarterly
Contents: Introduction: life writing through the lens of romance; Women’s literacy practices and the mechanics of reading romance; The woman’s autobiographical voice in early modern romance; Becoming the heroine; The specter of romance; Romancing the self in autobiographical romance; Bibliography; Index.