In examining early modern women and the poem, this book explores how women use poetry, and how poems use women, in England and Scotland in the period 1550–1680. Several decades of critical writing on 'women's poetry', 'gender and poetry', and the representation of women, or gender, in poetry have produced a rich and complex critical and scholarly field. The book looks at the primary and secondary evidence concerning two key elements in the analysis of early modern women's writing, namely, women and the poem. It first explores the way women understood the poem in terms of the reception, influence and adaptation of past models and examples, working from the reception of classical texts. It focuses on the resources women writing poetry knew and encountered in chapters on classical inheritance, the religious sonnet sequence and the secular sonnet sequence. The book then examines the world of reading and readers, and looks at poems in terms of friendships, quarrels, competitions, coteries, networks and critical reception, both then and later. It also emphasises the tales that poems tell, and how those stories both register and shape the understanding of women and the poem in the world of potential readers. In examining women and the poem, the use of women as signifiers and bearers of meaning in poetry is as significant as women's literary production.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book explores the way women understood the poem in terms of the reception, influence and adaptation of past models and examples. It focuses on the resources women writing poetry knew and encountered in chapters on classical inheritance, the religious sonnet sequence and the secular sonnet sequence. The book examines the world of reading and readers, and looks at poems in terms of friendships, quarrels, competitions, coteries, networks and critical reception, both then and later. The book also examines the shaping of femininity in the circulation of print material, approaching the question of women's relationship to the poem from the vantage point of the presence of women as subjects and objects in popular poetic forms.
This chapter discusses 'On the situation of Highbury' as a starting place to reconsider the place of the estate poem as one among several interlocking discourses of land, property, place and money in Restoration London. It aims to use close work on Katherine Austen in order to look again at the estate poem and tease out the conditions under which writers approached place at the Restoration. Accurately described by its editor, Sarah Ross, as a 'borderline literary text', 'Book M' offers a litmus test of life, money, land and literature as the 1650s become the Restoration. The overlapping concerns about 'dwelling', ease, labour and good estate management found in Austen's poem and 'To Penshurst' have been elucidated by Pamela Hammons. Austen's 'Book M' discloses the world in a very different way from that audible to economics alone.
John Donne, George Chapman and the senses of night in the 1590s
This chapter investigates the place of the senses in understandings of light, dark and shadow in the post-Reformation period, using the evidence of the writings of two contrasting poets, John Donne and George Chapman. It discusses Donne's will, where he disposes of his personal time keeping technology. The specificity of Donne's use of light, dark and shadow can be seen more clearly in comparison with Chapman's 'The Shadow of Night'. In 'A Nocturnall Upon St. Lucie's Day', the senses are interwoven with alchemical language and an elaboration, even multiplication, of the absence of light, the world of dark. The 'Hymnus in Noctem' explores night in terms of the senses, but also derives substantial sections from Natale Comes's allegorical fables. The Skeptick circulating in the 1590s is an indication of vernacular debate on the role of the senses, and sensory experience, in producing knowledge.