‘The nine-liv’d Sex’
Women and justice in seventeenth-century popular poetry
in Early modern women and the poem
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This chapter examines how Anne Greene's story was told and retold in 'popular' poetic form, and asks how such poetry might work to construct a narrative about female subjectivity under the law. Three pamphlet accounts of Anne's case appeared in early 1651 and were reprinted repeatedly thereafter. Of these works, two, William Burdet's A Wonder of Wonders and the anonymous A Declaration from Oxford, were issued by the London printer. Newes from the Dead, attributed to an Oxford 'scholler' called Richard Watkins, was produced by Leonard Lichfield, official printer to Oxford University. The presentation of the criminal, or criminalised, female in poetry is most usually via ballad or complaint, in verse forms associated with pamphlets, news-books and other ephemera. The chapter demonstrates how an elite re-rendering of the narratives that surround criminal women may transform our understanding of a genre traditionally associated with strategies of simplification and containment.

Editor: Susan Wiseman


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