By taking account of the ways in which early modern women made use of formal and generic structures to constitute themselves in writing, the essays collected here interrogate the discursive contours of gendered identity in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England. The contributors explore how generic choice, mixture, and revision influence narrative constructions of the female self in early modern England. Collectively they situate women's life writings within the broader textual culture of early modern England while maintaining a focus on the particular rhetorical devices and narrative structures that comprise individual texts. Reconsidering women's life writing in light of recent critical trends-most notably historical formalism-this volume produces both new readings of early modern texts (such as Margaret Cavendish's autobiography and the diary of Anne Clifford) and a new understanding of the complex relationships between literary forms and early modern women's 'selves'. This volume engages with new critical methods to make innovative connections between canonical and non-canonical writing; in so doing, it helps to shape the future of scholarship on early modern women.
'…makes an important contribution to the study of early modern women by its distinctive focus on generic innovation, women’s life writings, and the construction of the female self. The historicist approach of the volume is original and compelling, and the essays make a major contribution to gender studies by demonstrating how women’s identities are formed in rich and complex texts and contexts. The volume is not only theoretically astute, but meticulous throughout in its use of primary and secondary sources.' Laura Knoppers, Penn State University, USA ’… this is indeed a useful collection that expands our understanding both of literary genres and of women's rhetorical self presentations in the early modern period.’ Renaissance Quarterly