Special Issue "Regulation and Resistance: Gender and Coercive Power in Early Modern Literature"

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 March 2019

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Dr. Jessica C. Murphy

Associate Professor of Literature and Dean of Undergraduate Education, The University of Texas at Dallas, 800 West Campbell Rd, FO 16, Richardson, Texas 75080, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: early modern English literature; gender studies; early modern medicine
Guest Editor
Dr. Kris McAbee

Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, 2801 S. University Ave., Little Rock, AR 72204, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: early modern literature; gender and sexuality; intersectional feminist cultural studies

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Early modern English culture consistently imagines the regulation of feminine bodies, whether through virtuous exempla, cautionary tales, education and conduct books, medical diagnosis and advice, literary plots or tropes, fashion, or physical disciplines such as needlework, dance, or music lessons. Prescriptions for early modern gender include the watchful regulation of fathers, husbands, doctors, and teachers over women’s intellectual and moral education as well as over their physical activity. Representations of the internalized practice of self-regulation reveal that early modern women writers and female characters frequently recognize and weigh these gendered cultural expectations and prescriptions for their bodies. Fictions of such external and internalized containment of the female body’s sexuality, speaking, and social movements appear repeatedly in early modern texts.

This special issue seeks essays that engage with the complexities of how prescriptive limitations and rebellious evasions can be mutually constitutive in early modern culture. We welcome essays that confront the historical social forces at work in confining, restraining, and marginalizing disruptively gendered bodies that are seen as transgressive to the powers of colonizing and capitalistic states and their proxies. For example, how do capitalism and colonial expropriation methodically subjugate women and appropriate their labor? What are the intellectual, creative, and cultural gains contributed by the resistant physical, racial, and sexual diversity of early modern regulatory states?

This special issue’s interrogation of the regulation of gender and the body hopes to position early modern transgressive acts in the legacy of the intersectional feminist questioning of coercive state power.

Dr. Jessica C. Murphy
Dr. Kris McAbee
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Humanities is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

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Keywords

  • early modern
  • literature
  • gender
  • women
  • power

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle The Gatekeeper within: Early Modern English Architectural Tropes of Female Consent
Humanities 2019, 8(1), 40; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8010040
Received: 2 December 2018 / Revised: 18 February 2019 / Accepted: 20 February 2019 / Published: 28 February 2019
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Abstract
This essay maps out a constellation of early modern English feminine gatekeeper tropes that represent female sexual consent and imagine a gendered Cartesian dualism. This trope’s inherent mind–body divide grants the female subject’s mind a greater measure of rationality and autonomy from the [...] Read more.
This essay maps out a constellation of early modern English feminine gatekeeper tropes that represent female sexual consent and imagine a gendered Cartesian dualism. This trope’s inherent mind–body divide grants the female subject’s mind a greater measure of rationality and autonomy from the body than other early modern discourses of feminine virtue, such as humoralism. However, it can also undercut feminine agency in self-regulation by placing all the responsibility and blame on the woman’s mind in cases of sexual harrassment and assault. Hadrian Dorrell’s Avisa, Shakespeare’s Lucrece, Thomas Heywood’s Jane Shore, and Christopher Marlowe’s Hero represent a spectrum of feminine mental complicity in extramarital sex, yet their mental “gatekeepers” are all suspected of failure. Shakespeare’s Juliet and Cressida literalize this gatekeeper trope and render it a material allegory when they negotiate with male suitors at literal portals on stage, a window and a chamber door. Examining the extraordinary pressures put on feminine “gatekeeper” minds in early modern texts allows us to discern contemporary willingness to blame the victims of sexual assault. Full article
Open AccessArticle Sour Beer at the Boar’s Head: Salvaging Shakespeare’s Alewife, Mistress Quickly
Humanities 2019, 8(1), 6; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8010006
Received: 14 November 2018 / Revised: 28 December 2018 / Accepted: 4 January 2019 / Published: 9 January 2019
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Abstract
Using William Shakespeare’s character Mistress Nell Quickly as an example, this article contends that familiarity with both the literary tradition of alewives and the historical conditions in which said literary tradition brewed aids in revising our interpretation of working-class women on the early [...] Read more.
Using William Shakespeare’s character Mistress Nell Quickly as an example, this article contends that familiarity with both the literary tradition of alewives and the historical conditions in which said literary tradition brewed aids in revising our interpretation of working-class women on the early modern stage. Mistress Quickly, the multi-faceted comic character in three history plays and a city-comedy, resembles closely those women with whom Shakespeare and his contemporaries would have lived and worked in their day-to-day lives. Rather than dismissing her role as minor or merely comic, as previous criticism largely has, scholarship can embrace this character type and her narrative as an example to complicate teleological progressions for women. Full article
Open AccessArticle Narrating Pregnancy and Childbirth: Infanticide and the Dramatization of Reproductive Knowledge
Humanities 2018, 7(4), 120; https://doi.org/10.3390/h7040120
Received: 25 October 2018 / Revised: 10 November 2018 / Accepted: 12 November 2018 / Published: 19 November 2018
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Abstract
In early modern England, infanticide was a crime overwhelmingly associated with women. Both popular texts and legal records depict women accused of infanticide as mothers acting against nature. These figures, however, do not often appear in the period’s drama. Instead, early modern drama [...] Read more.
In early modern England, infanticide was a crime overwhelmingly associated with women. Both popular texts and legal records depict women accused of infanticide as mothers acting against nature. These figures, however, do not often appear in the period’s drama. Instead, early modern drama includes fictionalized mothers who kill their children beyond infancy and into adulthood. By eschewing portrayals of neonaticide and the trials associated with it, the drama highlights a dependency upon female characters’ verbal narratives of the reproductive body that reinforces pregnancy’s unstable epistemology. I argue that the flexibility of this epistemology allows women, whether female characters in drama or historical women on trial, to distance themselves from the crime of infanticide by reconstructing narratives of both pregnancy and childbirth. Sharing rhetorical devices with the testimonies of women accused of infanticide, dramatic mothers such as Videna in The Tragedie of Gorboduc and Brunhalt in Thierry and Theodoret linguistically sever the biological ties between mother and child, thus disrupting conventional portrayals of reproduction. These parallel strategies position the reproductive female body as a site of resistance to the legal mechanisms designed to interpret it. Full article
Open AccessArticle “I Shall Endeavor for Her Aims”: Women’s Alliances and Relational Figurations of Freedom
Humanities 2018, 7(4), 117; https://doi.org/10.3390/h7040117
Received: 30 June 2018 / Revised: 1 November 2018 / Accepted: 8 November 2018 / Published: 14 November 2018
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Abstract
In oppressive cultures that marginalize various identity positions, a woman might find it difficult to imagine herself as autonomous or capable of self-definition. Forging alliances with other women offers opportunities for self-discovery, transformation, and autonomous agency. Considering Queen Elizabeth’s correspondence with Safiye Sultana [...] Read more.
In oppressive cultures that marginalize various identity positions, a woman might find it difficult to imagine herself as autonomous or capable of self-definition. Forging alliances with other women offers opportunities for self-discovery, transformation, and autonomous agency. Considering Queen Elizabeth’s correspondence with Safiye Sultana and Phillip Massinger’s The Renegado, this essay argues that tropes of seeing, achieved either through material images or through vivid discursive descriptions, foster imaginative renderings of the possibilities of self-expression and agency. Both cases, one diplomatic and the other dramatic, demonstrate successful—even though temporary and politically motivated—alliances mediated through both patriarchal constraints and material markers of identity. Drawing on these epistolary and dramatic texts, this essay explores tropes of imaginative seeing, the materiality of identity, and physical spaces that enact women’s alliances invested in questions of women’s freedom across tributaries both political and dramatic. Full article
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