Course Code
ENAM 0245 / GSFS 0245
Course Type
Subject Credit
Course Availability

This course examines women writers of the English Renaissance, placing them in a wider European context, and studying them in their roles as translators and adaptors of a wide range of humanist texts, alongside their roles as poets, dramatists and political polemicists. The course provides an opportunity to study the manuscript and print culture of a distinctive group of writers too often excluded from early-modern literary studies.

Aristocratic writing, especially that surrounding the English court, is one setting for the growth of female authorship. The works of Anne Askew, Margaret Tyler and Mary Sidney were celebrated (and defended) within their period, as well as appreciated by later readers. Many of these writings are surprising in their authorial confidence: their writing is invested in a presentation of female influence, erudition and poetic skill, and enters fully into the literary and political debate of their male counterparts. We will cover poetry, prose, allegory, fantasy, philosophy, theology and drama. The utopian fictions of Mary Wroth and Mary Sidney reward attention as early examples of the genre we now call ‘science fiction’, as well as being read as Christian allegories and as radical political treatises. Further radical discussions surrounding the morality of female authorship came to head in a series of controversies in which women, often publishing pseudonymously and anonymously, defended themselves from the ridicule and hostility of male pamphleteers.

The study of women writers gives us a unique vantage point from which to approach the print culture and reading habits of the English Renaissance.