Using printed and manuscript texts composed between 1575 and 1672, Jennifer Heller defines the genre of the mother's legacy as a distinct branch of the advice tradition in early modern England that takes the form of a dying mother's pious counsel to her children. Reading these texts in light of specific cultural contexts, social trends, and historical events, Heller explores how legacy writers used the genre to secure personal and family status, to shape their children's beliefs and behaviors, and to intervene in the period's tumultuous religious and political debates. The author's attention to the fine details of the period's religious and political swings, drawn from sources such as royal proclamations, sermons, and first-hand accounts of book-burnings, creates a fuller context for her analysis of the legacies. Similarly, Heller explains the appeal of the genre by connecting it to social factors including mortality rates and inheritance practices. Analyses of related genres, such as conduct books and fathers' legacies, highlight the unique features and functions of mothers' legacies. Heller also attends to the personal side of the genre, demonstrating that a writer's education, marriages, children, and turns of fortune affect her work within the genre.
Table of Contents
Contents: Introduction: the birth of a genre; Education and the early modern mother; Generating maternal authority; Early modern sons and daughters; Religion and reform, 1603-1623;Obedience and toleration 1630 -1676; Deathbed legacies; Conclusion: gender, genre, and legacy; Works cited; Index.
Jennifer Heller is Associate Professor of English at Lenoir-Rhyne University, USA.
'... a valuable resource for anyone studying the development of women's writing. The Mother's Legacy in Early Modern England provides a comprehensive survey of mother's advice books across a hundred year time span.. With careful attention to the forces that shaped these works - their personal, cultural, and political contexts - this book further defines the genre, but more importantly, it reaffirms the importance of these texts as sites of female voice and power, both public and private.' Susan C. Staub, Appalachian State University, USA '... the information contained in this book has much to recommend it. Many students of the period will be enormously grateful for the thoroughness and care with which Heller explores the 'form and functional features' of the mother’s legacy genre as they work to construct the very readings that are not themselves present in the book.' Renaissance Quarterly 'In The Mother’s Legacy Heller makes a good argument for the usefulness of genre studies as an analytical method into both history and literature of the early modern period. She particularly highlights the popularity of the dying mother’s legacy within a tradition that regarded women writers with suspicion.' Parergon '... a very useful contribution to scholarship on women's authorship in the early-modern period, as well as a valuable addition to the expanding literature on advice books.' English Studies