Anda di halaman 1dari 25

"Feminist Consciousness" and "Wicked Witches": Recent Studies on Women in Early Modern

Europe
Review by: Barbara Becker-Cantarino
Signs, Vol. 20, No. 1 (Autumn, 1994), pp. 152-175
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3174931 .
Accessed: 18/06/2014 16:36

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .
http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

.
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of
content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms
of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

The University of Chicago Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Signs.

http://www.jstor.org

This content downloaded from 185.44.77.146 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:36:29 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
REVIEW ESSAY

"FeministConsciousness"and "Wicked
Witches":RecentStudieson Womenin
EarlyModern Europe
Barbara Becker-Cantarino

Worksreviewed
Amussen, SusanDwyer.An OrderedSociety:Genderand ClassinEarly
ModernEngland.Oxford:BasilBlackwell, 1988.
Benson,PamelaJoseph.The Inventionof RenaissanceWoman:The
Challengeof FemaleIndependence in theLiteratureand Thoughtof
Italy and England.University Park: PennsylvaniaStateUniversity
Press,1992.
Cohen,Sherrill. The Evolutionof Women's Asylums since1500: From
Refuges forEx-ProstitutestoShelters
forBattered Women. New York
and Oxford:OxfordUniversity Press,1992.
Ezell,MargaretJ.M. The Patriarch's Wife:LiteraryEvidenceand the
Historyof theFamily.ChapelHill and London:University of North
CarolinaPress,1987.
MicheleLongino.
Farrell, PerformingMotherhood: TheSevigneCorrespon-
dence.HanoverandLondon:University PressofNewEngland, 1991.
Gibson,Wendy.Womenin Seventeenth-Century France.London:Mac-
millan,1989.
Hester,Marianne. LewdWomen and WickedWitches: A StudyoftheDy-
namicsofMaleDomination. LondonandNewYork:Routledge, 1992.
Hobby, Elaine. Virtueof Necessity:
English Women's Writing,1649-
1688. London:ViragoPress,1988.
Howe,Elizabeth. TheFirstEnglishActresses:
Women andDrama,1660-
1700. Cambridge: Cambridge Press,1992.
University
Jankowski, TheodoraA. Womenin Powerin EarlyModernDrama.
of IllinoisPress,1992.
Urbana and Chicago: University
Jones,Ann Rosalind. The Currencyof Eros: Women'sLove Lyric in
Europe, 1540-1620. Bloomingtonand Indianapolis:Indiana Univer-
sityPress,1990.
[Signs:Journalof Womenin Cultureand Society1994, vol. 20, no. 1]
? 1994 byThe Universityof Chicago.All rightsreserved.
0097-9740/95/2001-0001$01.00

152 SIGNS Autumn 1994

This content downloaded from 185.44.77.146 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:36:29 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
EARLY MODERN EUROPE Becker-Cantarino

Jordan,Constance. RenaissanceFeminism:LiteraryTextsand Political


Models. Ithaca, N.Y., and London: CornellUniversity Press,1990.
King, Margaret L. Women of the Renaissance. Chicago: Universityof
Chicago Press, 1991.
Lerner, Gerda. The Creation of Feminist Consciousness: From the
MiddleAges to Eighteen-Seventy. New Yorkand Oxford:OxfordUni-
versityPress, 1993.
Lewalski, Barbara Kiefer.WritingWomenin Jacobean England. Cam-
bridge,Mass., and London: Harvard University Press,1993.
Mack, Phyllis. Visionary Women: Ecstatic Prophecy in Seventeenth-
CenturyEngland. Berkeley and Los Angeles:University of California
Press,1992.
Roper, Lyndal. The Holy Household: Womenand Morals in Reforma-
tionAugsburg.Oxford: ClarendonPress,1989.
Wiltenburg,Joy.Disorderly Women and Female Power in the Street
LiteratureofEarlyModernEnglandand Germany.Charlottesville and
London: University Pressof Virginia,1992.

H E PROGRAMMATICALLY titledanthologiesBecom-
ing Visiblein Historyand RewritingtheRenaissancehave led
the way in a flourishingof feministstudiesduringthe past
decade or so on women in earlymodernEurope,thatseminal
periodfromthe Reformationto the FrenchRevolutionthatwas forma-
tiveformodernEurope and, to quite some extent,forthecontemporary
West.1The broad periodization"Early Modern Europe," now current
among historians(though eyed with suspicion by some Renaissance
scholars in English departments)signals the interdisciplinarityof this
field,eschewingfirmtemporal,national,geographical,and disciplinary
boundaries.2This shiftis especiallyimportantforthestudyof womenas
a group and individually.For women (to be sure,withquite some vari-
ance dependingon social stationor class, nationalityor ethnicity,
politi-
cal and culturalor religiousspace, and individualcircumstances),the
earlymodernperiodmeant:domesticationin thepatriarchalhousehold,
1Renate ClaudiaKoonz,and SusanStuard,eds.,Becoming Visible:
Bridenthal,
WomeninEuropeanHistory, 2d ed. (Boston:Houghton Mifflin,1987);Margeret W.
Ferguson, MaureenQuilligan,andNancyJ.Vickers, eds.,RewritingtheRenaissance:
TheDiscoursesofSexualDifference in EarlyModernEurope(Chicagoand London:
UniversityofChicagoPress,1986).
2 See LeahS. ModernStudies," in Redrawing theBound-
Marcus,"Renaissance/Early
aries:TheTransformation ofEnglishand American Literary ed. Stephen
Studies, Green-
blattand GilesGunn(NewYork:ModernLanguageAssociation, 1992),41-63; andthe
introductionto Ferguson, andVickers,
Quilligan, eds.,whichdismantles thetraditional
notionofliterary"Renaissance"studiesas elitist
andobliviousto womenandimpliesits
transformationintoearlymodernstudies.

Autumn 1994 SIGNS 153

This content downloaded from 185.44.77.146 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:36:29 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Becker-Cantarino EARLY MODERN EUROPE

with importantfunctionsand mostlyunpaid work for and withinthe


household; emphasis on mothering,with increasingphysicalrequire-
mentsand psychologicalinternalization ofthisrole; significantgrowthin
a
literacy, by-product a
(not goal) of almost universallyrequiredreligious
and moraleducation;and subjectionto male tutelageand exclusionfrom
publicgovernance, frompoliticalrights, fromorganizedsecularand higher
education, from all professions and trades (thoughnotfrommeniallabor
or servantwork), and fromindependentacquisition of propertyand
capital. Althoughwomen appear in medieval sources and documents
almost exclusivelyas reflectionsof men's ideas about them,women's
voices beginto surfacemuchmorefrequently and moredirectlywiththe
Reformation and theproliferation ofprint.As a group,Europeanwomen
enterhistoryin theearlymodernperiod.These changeslinkthatperiod
morecloselyto our own thanto the Middle Ages.
It is refreshing to see how years of feministresearch,thinking,and
theorizing have resulted in a numberof studiesthat combine critical
reflection on theirown feminist positionand generalproblematicwitha
thorough,detailed, conscientious investigationof substantive,at times
massive, evidence of women as social subjectsand as fictionalor cultural
constructsin early modern societyand culture.Most significantare
workson literary womenin Englandand Franceand thefirstactressesin
the seventeenth century;on religiouswomen such as visionaryQuakers;
on marriedwomen and property;on lower-classwomen and asylumsin
earlymodernItaly;on male-femalepower relationsin the earlymodern
witch-hunts; and on intellectualhistoryattempting to establishthe cre-
ationof feminist consciousness.Yes, Europeanwomen'shistoryhas come
of age, as Elizabeth Fox-Genovesesuggestedin her reviewessay here
severalyearsago; it has greatlyexpandedour knowledgeand awareness
of women in cultureand societyduringthat period.3Feministscholar-
ship,I mightadd, is pioneeringa rethinking and rewriting of patriarchy
and of women's social and culturalroles in earlymodernEurope. My
reviewessay will highlightwork done subsequentlyto Fox-Genovese's
essay, concentratingon major new publicationsfrom 1987 to mid-
1993.4 Engagedin Germanliterary studies,I am writingas an outsiderto
3
ElizabethFox-Genovese,"Cultureand Consciousnessin the IntellectualHistoryof
European Women,"Signs:Journalof Womenin Cultureand Society12, no. 3 (Spring
1987): 529-47; forwork in Germanysee myforthcoming "'Dames de Lettres'und 'Die
Ordnungder Geschlechter':Neue Forschungzu Frauen und Geschlechtin der Friihen
Neuzeit,"Daphnis: Zeitschrift furMittlereDeutsche Literatur, vol. 23 (1994), in press;
and Eda Sagarra,"RecentFeministScholarshipin the Field of GermanStudies:A Re-
view Essay,"InternationalesArchivfurSozialgeschichteder deutschenLiteratur3,
Sonderheft 2 (1993): 113-58, esp. 137-42.
4 Due to limitationsof space I concentrateon book-lengthpublicationson Europe.
The publicationof journal articleshas been prolific;substantivepieces usuallyappear as
book chaptersin due time.My selectionsfromjournals,and above all fromnon-English
publicationsare, admittedly,eclecticand limitedby myown readingsand interests.

154 SIGNS Autumn 1994

This content downloaded from 185.44.77.146 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:36:29 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
EARLY MODERN EUROPE Becker-Cantarino

historicalresearchproperand to Englishand othernationalliteratures;


here I wish to connectfeministscholarshipon earlymodernwomen in
Europe withan interdisciplinary emphasis,albeitwithoutaddressingde-
bateswithinhighlyspecializedfieldsand subfieldssuchas new historicist
revisionsof the EnglishRenaissance.
It is a searchfororigins,fora senseof heritageor historicalbaggage,
as well as an abundanceof unexploredareas and untappedsourcescon-
cerningearlymodernwomenthathave attractedfeminist scholarsto this
period.5 The wealth and diversity of historicalevidence as well as our
present research in
interests and
intellectual,literary, social historyand
culture(theErkenntnisinteresse, in Habermasianterms)privilegea focus
on women's resistanceto patriarchy, be it by developingfeministcon-
sciousnessor by subvertingorder as wicked witches.The creationof
feministconsciousness,the subjectof Gerda Lerner'snewestand wide-
rangingstudy,and a searchforprefeminist or protofeministsentiments,
positions,and possibilitiesexplicitlyor tacitlyinformsmany,ifnotmost,
of thenew studieson literarywomen. On theotherside of thecoin, the
so-calledwickedwitches-lewd, immoral,unruly,asocial women-were
subversiveor repressedwomen or groups,who in theirantipatriarchal
and unsubmissiveattitudesor disruptiveactions foreshadowed,facili-
tated, and eventuallyalso contributedto the creationof feministcon-
sciousnessand feministactions.But thiswas not a linearor diachronic
development;neitherwas ita simplisticdichotomyof autonomousversus
victimized,privilegedversuslow-class,powerfulversusexploited,obe-
dientversusrebelliouswomen. Rather,womenlivedand participatedat
everylevel in the complex, multifacetedweb of that rigidlystratified,
ordered,and by its own definition patriarchalsociety,a societyin which
fathersruled.

I. Feminist consciousness and Renaissance feminism


As the long-awaitedconcludingvolume of her Women and History
Series,Gerda Lerner'sThe Creationof FeministConsciousness:Fromthe
Middle Ages to Eighteen-Seventy is the most comprehensiveand ambi-
tious of theserecentstudies.Her precedingbook, The Creationof Pa-
triarchy(1986), tracesthehistoricaldevelopmentin thearchaicstatesof
theAncientNear East bywhichpatriarchy emergesas thedominantform
5 Quitea fewconferences
and symposia havefocusedon thisperiod,e.g.,"Attending
to Womenin EarlyModernEngland"inNovember 1990 and "Attendingto EarlyMod-
ernWomen"in April1994 at theUniversity ofMaryland, CollegePark;"Womenin the
Artsandas Patronsin theRenaissance"in February 1993 at Ohio StateUniversity;
"Women, Religion,andtheArtsin EarlyModernEurope"in April1990 at Amherst
College.See also "WomenintheRenaissance," ed. AnnRosalindJonesandBetty Trav-
specialissueof Women's
itsky, Studies19, no. 2 (1991); and "Cluster
on EarlyModern
Women," introducedbyAnnRosalindJones,PMLA 109,no. 2 (1994): 187-237.
Autumn 1994 SIGNS 155

This content downloaded from 185.44.77.146 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:36:29 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Becker-Cantarino EARLY MODERN EUROPE

of societalorder;it is "patriarchalslave society,"Lernerasserts,"which


gives rise to the systemsof ideas that explain and orderthe world for
millenniathereafter."6 In her presentbook Lernerdocumentswomen's
emancipatorystruggleto formtheirown feministconsciousnessunder
patriarchalhegemonyin thought,values,institutions, and resources.In a
clearly delineated definition that may appear tersecomparedwith our
presently fashionable rhetoricof indeterminacy,Lerner describesfeminist
consciousnessas "1) the awareness of women that they belong to a
subordinategroup and that, as membersof such a group, theyhave
suffered wrongs;2) therecognitionthattheirconditionof subordination
is notnatural,butsocietallydetermined; 3) thedevelopmentof a senseof
sisterhood;4) the autonomous definitionby women of theirgoals and
for
strategies changing their condition;and 5) the developmentof an
alternatevisionof the future"(274). Such an intellectualconceptualiza-
tionof feminist consciousnessmaynot adequatelyreflect positiveaspects
of femininevalues, of "women's culture,"as Lernerherselfacknowl-
edges. Her conceptof "feministconsciousness"embracesa strongsense
of responsibility forand empathywith otherwomen and the social or-
ganismas whole; it does not implya unified,homogeneousfeminist
a
community nor is it identicalwith"relationalfeminism," but it is clearly
and
moresociallyresponsible political than theindividualism and (de)con-
struction offemalesubjectivity and identitynow in vogue.7Instead,Lerner
considerscrucialwomen'sawarenessof society's-changingand change-
able-patriarchalcondition,to whose understanding she has contributed
greatly;she insiststhatwomen be aware of a systemof-changing and
changeable-male power and dominationin her conceptualizationof
feminist consciousness.Lernersees thehistoricaland politicalstruggleof
feminismas an emancipatoryprocess and a breakingaway frommale
domination.It is preciselythispoint that is mutedin or writtenout of
muchof thepresenttrendydiscourseon genderand subjectconstruction,
a discoursethatmaywell lull feminist sensesas we oftenseemmerelyto
reproducetextsin whichwomenare alwaysalreadysubordinated.
In ten wide-reachingchaptersrangingfromthe seventhcenturyA.D.
and the earliestextantrecordsof women'sthoughtup to the 1870s and
the historicmomentwhen organizedmovementsforwomen'srightsap-

6 Gerda
Lerner,The Creationof Patriarchy(New York: OxfordUniversity Press,
1986), 5.
7 See Karen Offen'sinsightfulbut contestedessay; "DefiningFeminism:A Historical
Approach,"Signs 14, no. 1 (Autumn1988): 135-50; and Sandra Lee Bartky,"Toward a
Phenomenologyof FeministConsciousness"(1976), reprintedin her Femininity and
Domination:Studiesin the Phenomenologyof Oppression(New York and London:
Routledge,1990), 11-21. For a trenchantcritiqueof the discourseof (female)subjectiv-
ityand identityin referenceto the earlymodernperiod,see Carol Thomas Neely,"Con-
structing the Subject:FeministPracticeand the New RenaissanceDiscourses,"English
LiteraryHistory18 (1988): 5-18.

156 SIGNS Autumn 1994

This content downloaded from 185.44.77.146 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:36:29 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
EARLY MODERN EUROPE Becker-Cantarino

peared in westernEurope and the UnitedStates,Lerneraddresses"the


continuity and traditionof women'slong-rangereactionand resilienceto
patriarchyand the factorswhich broughtabout changes in women's
consciousnessof theirown situation" (13). From the firstchapter,it
becomes clear that educationaldisadvantageas a major forcein deter-
miningwomen'sindividualand collectiveconsciousnessand in theirpo-
liticalbehaviorcould be thesubjectof an entirebook, and a badlyneeded
one at that. Lernerrightlystressesthat women's talentshave not been
directed toward self-developmentbut toward "realizing themselves
throughthedevelopmentof men" (11) and remindsus thatwomenwere
denied access to institutionsof learningand, withveryfew exceptions,
excluded fromlearningopportunitiesavailable to men. The subsequent
chaptersfocuson themesin the developmentof women'sconsciousness
oftheirown situationin society:authorship;mysticism; biblicalcriticism;
motherhood; female clusters,networks,and social space; and the devel-
opment of women's history.
In its vast scope and overarchingscheme The Creationof Feminist
Consciousnessis a fascinatingand intriguingproject. Yet it is in the
executionof severalchaptersthatI am, at times,disappointed.Perhaps
I am not ready for (or expect too much from)such global intellectual
history;perhapsI am irritatedby what seemsto be, at times,a reliance
on older,patronizingaccountswhereI would have hoped fora critical
questioningand a freshperspective.8 Givenour lack of factualinforma-
tionabout manycrucialareas,forexample,theverysparsesourcesabout
and bywomenbefore1500, somewomen'shistory projectsrelyon stretch-
inganecdotalevidenceand filling thegaps withmoreor lessintelligent and
subjectiveinventions.9Not so Lerner.By contrast,she is scrupulously
open and honest about her sources and evidence-and this I consider
a greatasset of her book. While the vast scope of Lerner'sprojectpre-
cludes expertisein all and everydetail,her book makes manyinsightful
observationson women'sintellectualhistory.Withitsrich,international
bibliography,lively referenceto many centuriesand numerous and
fascinatingindividualwomen fromdiversenational,ethnic,and social
backgrounds,it will enrichour teachingand withits oftenchallenging
8 For
example,Lerner'saccount of Caroline Schlegelfollowsuncritically an ahistori-
cal modernprojectionwhile disregarding a wealthof more factualand criticalscholar-
ship on GermanRomanticcirclesand the role of women. Some GermanRomanticsex-
plored sexualityand freelove but maintainedand reinventedincreasingly strictgender
barriersfor"their"women. Gerder'sreferenceto a wifewho lefthusband and children
behindand escaped witha lover (235) is misleading,as it actuallyhides a strong,inde-
pendentlymindedand productiveauthor,ThereseForster-Huber, and reducesher to an
unfaithful wife.
9 See, e.g., ChristianeKlapish-Zuber,ed., A Historyof Womenin the West,vol. 2,
Silencesof the Middle Ages (Cambridge,Mass., and London: Harvard University Press,
1992),a totalizing gearedto thepublicandcollegelibrary
enterprise, thatcon-
market,
tributesto an increasingremythologizing
of women in safelydistanttimes.

Autumn 1994 SIGNS 157

This content downloaded from 185.44.77.146 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:36:29 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Becker-Cantarino EARLY MODERN EUROPE

and criticalanalyticalcomments,one hopes,will stimulatemorediscus-


sion on feministconsciousnessand patriarchyand further historicalre-
searchon such areas as femaleclustersand networks,an area thatI find
especiallyproblematicin Lerner'scoverageand conceptualization.
Feminism-and what that may mean or has meant-is a subject of
continuinginterest and studyin almostall newworkdealingwithwomen
in theearlymodernperiod,butespeciallyin theRenaissance,an increas-
inglyfuzzyperioddesignationthatin theserecentworksmostlyrefersto
Italybefore1600 and/orsixteenth-century Englandand perhapsFrance.
Few studiesacknowledgethat the groundworkforthemwas laid even
beforesecond-wavefeminismcame into beingin Ruth Kelso's magnifi-
cent1956 book, DoctrinefortheLady oftheRenaissance,whichcharted
and subtlyquestionedthe overtpraise and constructionof the virtuous
woman in Renaissance texts and the exalted, powerfulpositiongreat
womenheldpresumablyas men'sequals in RenaissanceItaly.10This view
of greatRenaissancewomen had been suggestedby Jacob Burckhardt's
The Civilizationof the Renaissancein Italy a centuryearlierand had
becomean uncontestedassumptionin theflourishing Renaissanceschol-
arshipduring the first
half of the twentieth century and beyond.11Two
decades afterKelso, Joan Kelly'sinfluential essay "Did Women Have a
Renaissance?"succinctlyphrasedfeminist doubtsabout actual women's
statusas comparedwith men's elevatedsocial and economic possibili-
ties.12Kelly (and feminist intellectualand social historiansin herwake)
looked at women in spaces otherthan the elites,in different social and
familialpositions,and at work.Kelly'slater"EarlyFeministTheoryand
the Querelle des femmes,1400-1789" reopeneda livelydebate about
thenotionofwoman in theWesterntextualtraditionand thesignificance
of these texts (as rhetoricalexercises,prescriptivedoctrine,misogynic
pronouncements, feministpleas, and/orreflections of reality).13

10Ruth
Kelso,Doctrine fortheLadyoftheRenaissance (Urbana:UniversityofIllinois
Press,1956).Kelso'sis stillthemostthorough andcomprehensive oftheseaccounts
though sheremains oftenunacknowledged (orperhaps unread).Seealsothemuch-quoted
(inEnglish Renaissance Ian Mclean,TheRenaissance
studies) NotionofWoman(Cam-
bridge: Cambridge UniversityPress,1980),whoemphasizes theethicalandmedicalvision
ofmarriage as a naturalstateforwhichwomanis destined to enterandto remain.
11JacobBurckhardt, TheCivilizationoftheRenaissance in Italy(1860),trans.
S. G. C. Middlemore (NewYork:Boni,1935).
12 Joan
Kelly,"Did WomenHave a Renaissance?" reprintedin Bridenthal,
Koonz,
and Stuard, eds.(n. 1 above),137-64; MerryWiesner, Working Womenin Renaissance
Germany (NewBrunswick, N.J.:RutgersUniversityPress,1986),reviewed (withother
pertinent works)byOlwenHuftoninSigns14,no. 1 (Autumn 1988):223-28; Alice
Clark'sinfluential The Working Lifeof Women in theSeventeenthCentury (1919) has
beenreprinted (London:Routledge, 1992) withan excellent
introductionandnewbibli-
ography byAmyLouiseErickson.
13 JoanKelly, "EarlyFeminist TheoryandtheQuerelledesfemmes, 1400-1789,"
Signs8, no. 1 (Autumn 1982):4-28.

158 SIGNS Autumn 1994

This content downloaded from 185.44.77.146 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:36:29 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
EARLY MODERN EUROPE Becker-Cantarino

Aspectsof thistextualtraditionconcerningthe notion of woman in


Italy,England,and France are beingexaminedanew in numerousspe-
cialized articlesand in two recentstudies.Pamela JosephBenson'sThe
Inventionof RenaissanceWomanwishesto recoverwoman byrereading
a somewhatlimited,eclecticselectionofcanonicaltextsfromBoccaccio's
De mulieribusclaris to Spenser'sThe Faerie Queene. Benson suggests
that while most of her textsexplicitlyoffera new (and more positive)
notion of what woman is, theyshare a reluctanceto initiatesocial or
politicalreform.In the praise of woman, the male authorremainsthe
authoritative voice inscribingmeaningand the governorof social insti-
tutions; speak of a "challengeof femaleindependence,"as the book's
to
subtitlewould suggest,appears to me a bit anachronisticand not borne
out by the texts.
Benson'sconclusionsabout themale as undisputedgovernorof social
institutions,while by no means novel revelations,are broughtout even
moreconvincingly in an insightful
studyon theconstruction and literary
representationof women rulers in selected sixteenth-century English
drama. Theodora A. Jankowski'sperceptiveand readable Women in
Power in Early Modern Drama analyzes how and why women ruler
characterswere representedas theywere againsta backgroundof early
modernpoliticaltheoryand theanomalyof thewoman rulerin playsby
Shakespeare(thefiguresof Joan La Pucelle,Margaretof Anjou, Volum-
nia, and Cleopatra),Lyly'sSapho and Phao, Marlowe's Dido Queen of
Carthage,Webster'sThe Duchess of Malfi,and Heywood. It was a dif-
ficultproject of tryingto representnotions of female sovereigntyon
stage,as Jankowskidemonstrates withtheconfusingimageof Elizabeth
in Heywood's If You Know Not Me, You Know Nobody.Heywood drew
on thediscourseof theProtestantsaint(Elizabethis showncaringforthe
country'seconomic and religiouswelfareand protectiveof the body
politicagainstexternalthreats)because he could notpresentElizabethas
simultaneously powerfuland threatening or as primarilya woman con-
trolledby love for an individualman. "Women sovereignschallenged
prevailingnotionsof eitherwhat a rulershould be or what a woman
should be" (205), for images of femalepower were viewed as either
threatening or subversiveby the male authorsand the audience.
Anotherreviewof the debate on Renaissance notionsof woman is
Constance Jordan'sextensivelyand denselyargued Renaissance Femi-
nism,which groundsthe termsof the debate on women in pertinent
passages in the Bible, Aristotle,and representativehumanists.Jordan
analyzes treatiseson household government(Francesco Barbaro's De
re uxoria [1416] and BattistaAlberti'sI Libri della Famiglia [1441])
and on Christianmarriage(Erasmus'sInstitutioMatrimoniiChristiani
[1526], whichstressedwomen'sspiritualequalitywhilerestricting them

Autumn 1994 SIGNS 159

This content downloaded from 185.44.77.146 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:36:29 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Becker-Cantarino EARLY MODERN EUROPE

to inferiorpositionsin marriageand society).WhatJordanterms"femi-


nists"weremostlymale authors,who defendedwomenbyexpandingon
the meaningof the firstcreation;some like Agrippaof Nettesheimused
argumentsfromhistoryor pointedto otherculturesto underminethe
universalbeliefin the inferiority of women,and theyappealed to com-
mon experiencesof men and women and drew upon androgynyand
shared genderbehavior.Still,these "feminists"(do we reallywant to
stretchthis moderntermthat far?)insistedon docile wives in orderto
consolidatea family'swealthand in orderto legitimate theirsocial status.
Thus it seems imperativethat we also pay close attentionto the firm
establishment and thenseeminglyuniversalacceptanceof thepatriarchal
marriageparadigm in the sixteenthcenturyand that we take it into
considerationwhen rereadingRenaissance"feminism."14 There was, as
Jordanacknowledges, a constant shiftingback and forthand a powerful
tensionbetweenprowomansentiments dressedin thefinestRenaissance
rhetoricand strongpatriarchalassertionsas soon as male privilegeor
power appeared to be touchedupon in words, let alone questionedor
infringed upon. Equalityas a social and politicalmodelwas unthinkable;
any alliance betweenwomenand powerwas thena threatening one and,
ever since the Salic law, the rare woman sovereignpresenteda special
dilemma,even as a guardianforher underageson.
"Equality,"themostinteresting chapterin RenaissanceFeminism,ad-
dressesbesidesMarie de Gournay'swritingsthoseof severalFrenchand
Italian women of the late sixteenthand mostlythe seventeenth century
who includefriendship-female friendship at that-and visionsof a femi-
ninesocietyfreefrompatriarchallaws in theirdiscussion,such as Mod-
erata Fonte'sII meritodelle donne (1600) and Lucrezia Marinelli'sNo-
bilita e l'eccellenzadelle donne (1601). Unfortunately, Jordan'ssophis-
ticated studyseems to be wanderingoffjust when lesser known but
innovativewomen'stextsfromthe earlyseventeenth centurycome into
view. It concludes with the sobering,all too familiarassessmentthat
"feministtheorycame into inevitableconflictwithpatriarchalpractice"
(309). How true!And how enduringthatpracticehas been! The Renais-
sance debate on women did not move on to envisioning,let alone de-
manding,social and economic equalityfor women until a few seven-
teenth-century women made a beginning.Why then?Aftermuch fine
scholarshipabout Renaissancenotionsof woman, we need to investi-
14
For discussionsof a wide rangeof textsbeyondJordan's"pan-Europeanscheme"
see the articlesand bibliographyin Maria E. Muller,ed.,
(308) of England/France/Italy,
Ehegliickund Liebesioch.Bildervon Liebe, Ehe und Familiein der Literaturdes 15.
und 16. Jahrhundert (Weinheimand Basel: Beltz,1988); and severaltextsdealingwith
the "Querelle des femmes"withdetailedintroductions and commentary in the seriesAr-
chiv furphilosophie-und theologiegeschichtliche Frauenforschung editedby Elisabeth
Gossmann(Munich: Iudicium,1988).

160 SIGNS Autumn 1994

This content downloaded from 185.44.77.146 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:36:29 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
EARLY MODERN EUROPE Becker-Cantarino

gatemorefullytheprocessof evolvingfeminist
emancipatory
thought
and women'sconflictual withpatriarchal
relationship and
perceptions
and to includewomenauthorsfromotherEuropeancoun-
institutions
triesas well.

II. Rewritingwomen's literaryhistoryin early modern Europe

Duringthepasttwodecadesmostfeminist scholarshaveechoedthe
male-authorized, elevatedviewof thegreatMiddleAgesin numerous
studiesand collections on medievalwomenwhileclinging to thestraws
of meager,androcentric sourcesand a tinycanonofgreatwomen,no-
tablyHildegardof Bingenand Christine de Pizan (bothconveniently
availableinrecent English translations
andthesubjectofnumerous treat-
ments).15 Bycontrast, Renaissancesourcesconcerning womenbecome
muchmorecopious,varied,andexpressive withtheproliferation ofprint.
Anexcellent surveyofwhatwe "know"aboutwomenofthisperiodcan
be foundin Margaret L. King's Womenof the Renaissance,which
describes women'splace in thefamily, thechurch,and in highculture
fromabout the fourteenth throughthe seventeenth century,focusing
especiallyon Englandandnorthern Italy(Venice).King'sproject(andthe
book'stitle)appealsto our traditional notionsof the Renaissanceas
a "great"epochbyforegrounding womenin highculture.Yetas well-
roundedand seemingly comprehensive as thisstudyis,italertsus to the
difficulties
inherentin anycohesivenarrative ofwomen'shistory across
time,class, and geography.16 Conceptsof "highculture,"anecdotal
15Recenthistoricalstudiesand collectionsincludeEdithEnnen,The Medieval
Woman (Oxford:Basil Blackwell,1989), a broad West-Europeansurveyon women's
roles and places in westernEurope; Claudia Opitz, Evatochterund Briute Christi:Weib-
licherLebenszusammenhang und Frauenkultur im spdtenMittelalter(Weinheim:Studi-
enverlag,1990), a collectionof studieson religiousand on "unruly"women; P. J.P.
Goldberg,ed., WomanIs a WorthyWight:Womenin EnglishSocietyc. 1200-1500
(WolfeboroFalls, N.H.: Alan Sutton,1992) containsessayson women as landholders(a
readingof Pizan), on the sexual divisionof labor and women'seconomicactivity(as re-
vealed in manorialcourtrolls),on patternsof femalecharity(based on wills in various
Yorkshireprobatecollections),and femalepiety(readingnunneryarchitecture, iconogra-
phy,and seals). Interpretive
studiesincludeClarissaW. Atkinson,The Oldest Vocation:
ChristianMotherhoodin the Middle Ages (Ithaca, N.Y.: CornellUniversity Press,1991);
MargaretA. Miles, Carnal Knowledge:Female Nakednessand ReligiousMeaningin the
ChristianWest(New York: VintageBooks, 1991); Sabina Flanagan,Hildegardof Bin-
gen, 1098-1179: A VisionaryLife (London: Routledge,1989); and Maureen Quilligan,
The Allegoryof Female Authority:Christinede Pizan's Cite des Dames (Ithaca, N.Y.,
and London: CornellUniversity Press,1991).
16 King's book has simultaneously appeared in French,German,and Italian transla-
tionsin the respectivecountries;it will thusprobablyserveas a standardwork on Re-
naissancewomen forsome timeto come. For a discussionof the problematicsof wom-
en's historywithsome referenceto the earlymodernperiod,see ElizabethFox-
Genovese,"Individualismand Women'sHistory"and "Strugglefora FeministHistory,"
both in her FeminismwithoutIllusions:A Critiqueof Individualism(Chapel Hill and

Autumn 1994 SIGNS 161

This content downloaded from 185.44.77.146 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:36:29 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Becker-Cantarino EARLY MODERN EUROPE

storiesof "exemplary"women,a penchantforgreatepochs and illustri-


ous names,and a reverenceforelegantscriptingstillloom large in our
histories.Ifwe wish,however,to engagein "rewriting theRenaissance,"
we mustalso look at such areas as workand thetrades,ruraland urban
settings,life cycles and styles,and a wider (ethnic/nationaland geo-
graphic)spectrum of societiesin earlymodernEurope. We must become
moresensitiveto issuesof class and uncoverparadoxes and ambiguities
for femaleagencyand authority;we also need to investigatewomen's
decreasingeconomicopportunitiesand shrinkingindependence,as was
the case in FrenchRenaissancesocietyand in earlymodernGermany.17
In short,interdisciplinary and intertextualapproaches seem to be the
most fruitful, creativelycombiningquestionsof history,sociology,liter-
and
ary criticism, theoryfora feministinquiryin refiguring woman as
well as makingwomen visible.18
Problemsfacingliterarywomen of the EnglishRenaissanceand the
culturethatshaped theirwritinghave attractedconsiderableattention.19
In a sex-gendersystemas highlycontrolledand class-differentiated as
thatofearlymodernEurope,individualwomenauthorscan profitably be
read in relationto the male writersand male-defined discoursesof the
time;in such a way Ann RosalindJones'sThe Currencyof Eros looks at
eightwomen poets fromEngland,France,and Italywritingfromabout
1540 to 1620 and suggeststhat these women were able to writeand
publishbecausetheyhad foundways"to maneuverin thechastity-silence
equation,men'sownershipof educationand publishing,and themascu-
line perspectivebuiltinto eroticconventionsnamed afterfoundingfa-
thers and sons (Plato, Ovid, Petrarch)"(2). In a neat, comparative
scheme,Jonesgroupsher authorsin fourpairs: theprofessionalwomen
poets Isabella Whitneyand Catherinedes Roches, who wrote to live;

London: University of NorthCarolina Press,1991), 113-66; and Isobel Grundyand


Susan Wiseman,eds., Women,Writing, History,1640-1740 (Athensand London: Uni-
versityof Georgia Press,1992).
17 See Les femmesdans la societefrancaisede la Renais-
EvelyneBerriot-Salvadore,
sance (Geneva: LibrairieDroz, 1990); and Heide Wunder,"Er ist die Sonn', sie ist der
Mond": Frauenin der FriihenNeuzeit (Munich: Beck, 1992).
18 See the finecollectionby MarilynMigiel and JulianaSchiesari,Refiguring Woman:
Perspectiveson Genderand the Italian Renaissance(Ithaca, N.Y., and London: Cornell
University Press,1991).
19 RecentstudiesincludeElaine
Beilin,RedeemingEve: WomenWritersof the En-
glish Renaissance(Princeton,N.J.: PrincetonUniversity Press,1987); Sheila Fisherand
JanetE. Halley,Seekingthe Womanin Late Medieval and RenaissanceWritings: Essays
in FeministContextualCriticism(Knoxville:University of TennesseePress,1989);
AnneM. Haselkornand BettyS. Travitsky, eds., The RenaissanceEnglishwomanin
Print:Counterbalancingthe Canon (Amherst:University of MassachusettsPress,1990);
MargaretP. Hannay,Philip'sPhoenix: Mary SidneyCountessof Pembroke(New York:
OxfordUniversity Press,1990); Mary Ellen Lamb, Genderand Authorshipin the Sidney
Circle (Madison and London: University of WisconsinPress,1991).

162 SIGNS Autumn 1994

This content downloaded from 185.44.77.146 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:36:29 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
EARLY MODERN EUROPE Becker-Cantarino

Pernettedu Guilletand Tullia d'Aragona,who shareda strategyof self-


representation throughpublisheddialogue; Mary Wrothand Gaspara
Stampa, who adopted thepersonaand discourseof a lovingshepherdess
appealing to a forbiddenand elusivelover;and Louise Labe and Veronica
Franco, who with a new feminine eroticismwroteabout sexual pleasures
as sexual pleasures.Besides using strategiesof adaptation,negotiation,
and appropriationof literaryconventionsand identification withpresti-
gious literarycircles,Louise Labe and Veronica Franco usurpedmascu-
linediscourseson behalfofall womenin openlyoppositionalstrategies.20
"WomenthroughoutEurope,"Jonescontends,"used the conventionsof
love lyricsas a screenand channel forvarious desires:for intellectual
freedom,for social recognition,for spiritualself-determination" (200).
Jonespointsout thatthesepoets are partof women'shistoryread as "a
process of struggleand creativeaccommodationto social realitiesand
culturalforms"(9). Such a concept of women's struggleand creative
accommodationcertainlymakes for an interestingreading; it shapes
theseeightwell-researched and carefullycraftedliterarybiographiesin a
way thatis appealingto thereaderlongingfora meaningful, connective,
yetindividuallydistinguished storyforeach life-and-work complex. Of
course,we mustrememberthatthesewomenpoetswererelatively privi-
leged and thuscould be moremobilewithinthedominantgenderideol-
ogy and signifying systemsthan women who lacked education,leisure,
and means forculturalproduction;literarywomen in the fifteenth and
earlysixteenthcenturieswere,indeed,membersof thesocial and cultural
elite.Would factoring in class changethesmoothand elegantnarrativeof
comparativeliteraturescholarsabout these outstandingwomen? How
and why did women's literacyincreasesince the sixteenthcenturyand
how did it changewomen'srole in literaryculture?
Nonelite women's voices in the late sixteenthand especiallyin the
seventeenth centuryare stillto be discoveredand listenedto. In a search
of "forgottenauthors," Elaine Hobby's Virtueof Necessity:English
Women's Writing,1649-1688 has unearthednearlyhalf a centuryof
busyliteraryproductionbywomenand surveyssome two hundredtexts
on a wide range of topics (mainlyreligious-about one hundred-but
also autobiographicaland biographical,political,fictional,lyrical,dra-
matic,medicinal,and educationalwritings)while placingthe textsand
femaleauthorshipin a sociopoliticalcontext.Eschewingcleverreadings
of individualtexts,Hobby instead concentrateson showingwomen's
politicalactivismduringthecivilwar, whichwas soon silencedafterthe
restorationof themonarchy.Still,theshiftintoliterary pamphleteering is
20
See also Guy Demerson,ed., Louise Labs: Les voix de lyrisme(Paris: Editionsdu
CNRS, 1990); MargaretF Rosenthal,The Honest Courtesan:VeronaFranco, Citizen
and Writer(Chicago: University
of Chicago Press,1993).

Autumn 1994 SIGNS 163

This content downloaded from 185.44.77.146 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:36:29 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Becker-Cantarino EARLY MODERN EUROPE

remarkablewhilethelargelygenteeland sophisticatedpoeticformsseem
no longerimportantand have given way to the seventeenthcentury's
religiousconflicts.
That same centurysaw the entranceof women onto the professional
stageas actressesin Restorationdramareplacingtheboy actorsin female
rolesand allowingwomena publicvoice forthefirsttimein theEnglish
theatermorethana hundredyearsafterwomen began actingon profes-
sional stagesin Italy,France,Spain, and Germany.21 ElizabethHowe's
well-researched, concise study The FirstEnglish Actresses: Womenand
Drama, 1660-1700 shows that thelegacy forwomen in what is consid-
ered the age of the performer's theaterwas a mixed one: actresseswere
almostentirelycontrolledby male managersand playwrights and were
on
sexually(and economically)exploited stage and off.
Yet it was a rare
opportunity to earn fame and money in the public arena and to engage
in intellectualand artisticpursuitsoutside the home or family,even if
actresses"facedprejudice,antagonismand a varietyof patriarchallaws
and traditions,all of whichmade sexual equalityin thetheatre(as else-
where)an impossibility" (176). Feministquestionsraised (and explicitly
articulatedand discussed) in this study concern sexual equality,the
women actor'spossibleinfluenceon the dramaticportrayaland percep-
tion of women, and theirpossible challengeto traditional,patriarchal
attitudes;such questions (not a preconceivedtheoreticalnet), though
clearlyrootedin our presentinterests, open up thepast to a meaningful
reading.It would be of interestto integrateHowe's insightful observa-
tionson thefirstprofessionalactressesintotheconsiderableliterature on
Restorationdrama and to explore in more detail and in a European
contextwomen'sentranceonto thestage,bothin amateurperformances
in aristocraticcircles(whichprecededwomen'sprofessionalacting)and
in the professionalarena. Also, the complexinterrelationship of sexual-
ity,performancepractices,and genderand the influenceon dramatic
textshas yetto be exploredbyliteraryscholarswithattentionto existing
textsand records.Howe's studyhas shown,once again, thata sophisti-
cated readingof "women and drama" growsout of beingembeddedin
the richlydocumentedculturalcontextof the age.
In a similarmanner,BarbaraKieferLewalskiin herrecentimpressive
study,WritingWomeninJacobeanEngland,stressestheneed forreading
women's texts "with the full scholarlyapparatus of textual analysis,
historicalsynthesis,and literaryinterpretation at play" (2). An eclectic
assemblageof a handful of disparatetexts, so fashionable in some new
historicistRenaissance studies,simplywill not do. Lewalski examines
21 K.
Hecker,"Die Frauenin den friihenCommedia dell'ArteTruppen,"in Die
Schauspielerin:Zur Kulturgeschichte ed. Renate Mohr-
der weiblichenBiihnenkunst,
mann (Frankfurt: Insel, 1989), 27-58, esp. 35-38.

164 SIGNS Autumn 1994

This content downloaded from 185.44.77.146 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:36:29 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
EARLY MODERN EUROPE Beck er-Cantarino

ninewomenauthorsfromtheculturalelitewho wereactivelyinvolvedin
Jacobean culture(Queen Anne, PrincessElizabeth,Arbella Stuart,the
Countessof Bedford,Anne Clifford,Rachel Speght,ElizabethCary,Ae-
miliaLanyer,and MaryWroth),recovering theirtextsand analyzinghow
they wrote themselves and theirworld. Not a cohesivegroupnor repre-
sentativeof women in power or even in the same ranksof society,these
women all managed "to develop a strongsense of self,to claim identity
as authors,and to produce textswhich consistentlythoughvariously
resist,oppose, and rewritepatriarchalnorms"(3). Lewalski stressesthe
oppositionalfeatures,the rewritingof patriarchy, and the literaryrevi-
sions of these authors and theirworks. While avoiding termingthese
authorsfeminists, she adroitlymanages to show theircontributionsto
Jacobean culture, the one hand, and how thesewomen collectively
on
challengedpatriarchalideology,on the other;theyrewrote"the major
discoursesof theirera in strikinglyoppositionalterms"(309) and their
texts were profoundlyconcernedwith the politics of gender.Clearly,
aspectsof feminist consciousnessare emergingherein thesewomenwrit-
ers "as theycontextualizeeach otherand as theyinteractwithcontem-
poraryculturalforcesand literarytraditions"(309).
Such feministconsciousnessis a threadwith which women's books
"continueeach other,"as VirginiaWoolfput it,and what drawsfeminist
literaryscholarsto Europe'searlymodernperiodin thefirstplace. Recent
major work on Frenchwomen likewisebears thisout. In a meticulously
executed,detailedstudyof women in seventeenth-century salon culture
in France, Renate Baader's Dames de lettresfocuseson, among other
coterie authors, Mile de Scudery,Mile de Montpensier,and Mme
d'Aulnoy.22Baader shows the salon to be a woman's place and a struc-
ture that allows theirintellectualdevelopment,literaryeducation,and
creativity.Baader gives a refreshing revaluationof the oral traditions,
languagegames,and sociabilityof thesalon, a phase of feminineenlight-
enmentthatis followed(and devalued) by the subsequentmale Enlight-
enmentin the eighteenthcentury.Adoptingan insider'spoint of view,
Baader'saccountof feminineself-development and educationadds a new
dimensionto what ironicallyhas been called "paradise of women" in
seventeenth-century France.23
Two otherrecentstudieson seventeenth-century Frenchwomenneatly
complementand extend Baader's and Lougee's work. WendyGibson's
Womenin Seventeenth-Century France providesan insightful overview
22
R. Baader, Dames de lettres:Autorinnendes prezi6sen,hocharistokratischen
und
'modernen'Salons (1649-1698): Mile de Scudery-Mlle de Montpensier-Mme
d'Aulnoy(Stuttgart:Metzler 1987).
23
See CarolynLougee, Le paradis des femmes:WomenSalons and Social Stratifica-
tion in Seventeenth-CenturyFrance (Princeton,N.J.: PrincetonUniversity
Press,1976).

Autumn 1994 SIGNS 165

This content downloaded from 185.44.77.146 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:36:29 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Becker-Cantarino EARLY MODERN EUROPE

of women'ssocial roles and environment frombirthto death,including


such importantaspectsas education;marriage;maternity; work; politi-
cal, civic, and culturallife; and religion.Withouttrendyjargon and
speculativeself-projections Gibson has amassed a wealthof informative
detail fromdocumentsand skillfullyorganizedthese into a fact-filled,
vivid account of women's lifecyclefrombirthto death. In Performing
Motherhood: The Sevigne Correspondence,Michele Longino Farrell
givesthismagnificent body of lettersa close readingas an enactmentof
motherhoodand tracesthe absorptionof the dominantsocial code in
these texts.The "correspondence"as it is available to us has a rather
bizarre history:it consistsonly of Sevigne'slettersto, above all, her
daughter,Mme de Grignan.The letters,as we read them,are in theform
and shape thatSevigne'sgranddaughter Paulineapprovedin 1734 forthe
male editorwhom Pauline commissionedwiththe publication.Pauline
had the originalmanuscriptsof the entirecorrespondence, all of which
sheherselfsubsequently destroyed, thus silencing herown mother (whose
lettersshe excluded fromthe publication).Revaluingthe letteras an
importantliterary genre,Farrellattributes theenduringpopularityofthis
correspondence to the author's self-inscription "withinthe bounds of
propriety ... and her
bypositing authority within theplausiblesphereof
hermaternity" (2).24 While thismay be too restrictivean explanationfor
theentirebodyofletters, Farrell'sclose readingis veryilluminating ofhow
the concept of motherprovidesa femaleidentityfor this aristocratic
woman.25On the basis of the text ratherthan a grandiosetheoryof
mothering, Farrellcarefullytracesthe textualmother-daughter entangle-
mentand otherrelationships foregrounding Sevigne'simperative maternal
self-inscription. in
Farrellsees exemplified thiscorrespondence the "diffi-
cultrelationsamongthewomen... as a directconsequenceof theircom-
mon marginality withinthepatriarchalframework, intenton maintaining
patriarchalorder" (250). While retracingthismother'sauthorship,Far-
rell'sown feminist position(alwaysarticulated in themarginofeach chap-
ter)allows herto stepaside fromwhatshe sees as a paradigmaticmother-
daughterentanglement and to distanceherselfas an onlooker.
As with Sevigne'scorrespondence,a surprisingamountof documen-
tationby and about individualwomen of the earlymodernperiod has
survived,and not only of women fromthe aristocracyand cultural
24
Forthemoveto revaluewomen'sletters in literary see amongothersAnita
studies,
RungeandLieselotte eds.,Die FrauimDialog:Studien
Steinbriigge, zurGeschichtedes
Briefes(Stuttgart:Metzler,1991);LilianeWeisberg, "ChangingWeather:A ReviewEs-
say,"MichiganGermanic Studies67 (1992): 77-86; Elizabeth
C. Goldsmith,ed., Writ-
ingtheFemaleVoice:Essayson Epistolary Literature(Boston:Northeastern
University
Press,1989).
25 See also the
interesting
biography: JeanneA. Ojala, Madamede Sevigne:A
Seventeenth-Century Life(Oxford:Berg,1990).

166 SIGNS Autumn 1994

This content downloaded from 185.44.77.146 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:36:29 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
EARLY MODERN EUROPE Becker-Cantarino

elite.26Yet many women's biographieshave yet to be written,more


thoroughlyresearched,or rewritten withsensitivityto genderquestions,
as has recentlybeen done for such prominentwomen as the Spanish
visionaryTeresa of Avila,the Italian painterArtemisiaGentileschi,the
well-knownEnglishauthorMary Astell,or the Germanprofessor'swife
and a scholarin herown right,ErnestineChristineReiske.27Whethera
feministbiographyshould be done withan overarchingtheoretical,psy-
choanalyticframeprojectedback onto an earlymodernlife-story is debat-
able. Nothingcomparableto ErikH. Erikson'sbynow classicpsychoana-
lyticstudyofthereformer, YoungMan Luther,has beenattempted to date
for an early modernwoman, not even for Elizabeth I or Christinaof
Sweden,whose abrogationof thethroneand conversionto Catholicism
is stillshroudedin mystery and whose autobiographyhas receivedrela-
tively littleattentionin the presentvogue of autobiographicalstudies.28
Does thehistoricalfemalepsychenot fitpsychoanalytic theories?Unlike
a textualenterprise in the "fashioningof femininity" (a trendyprojectin
genderstudies),biographies contribute to a largerpictureof a collective
of
history literary women's voices who enter literaryculturein large
numberstowardthe end of the earlymodernperiod.
Perceptivereadingsof such voices of women'sentryinto literatureas
a professioncan be found in severalrecentstudiesthat challengethe
traditional"rise of the novel" story.Jane Spencer's The Rise of the
WomanNovelistand Dale Spender'sMothersof theNovel have put the
recoveryof women novelistson the map of literaryhistory,even if
Michael McKeon's recentinquiryinto the originsof the Englishnovel,
1600-1740, stillmostlydisregardsfemalewritersand readership.But
thenew,substantiveworkappearingwithmajor presseswill changethis
benignneglectof earlywomen professionalauthors:Sara Heller Men-
delson'sThe Mental Worldof StuartWomendiscussesMargaretCaven-
dish, Mary Rich, and Aphra Behn; CherylTurner'sLiving by the Pen
addresseswomen'semergingprofessionalism witha fact-findingmission;
Mona Scheuermann's Her Bread to Earn studiestheportrayalofwomen;
and Ros Ballaster'sSeductiveForms: Women'sAmatoryFictionfrom
1684 to 1740 reads women's novels of sexual adventureas politically
26 Recent dictionariescan providea helpfulstartand include
bio-bibliographical
JeanM. Woods and Maria Fuerstenwald,Schriftstellerinnen, Kiinstlerinnenund gelehrte
Frauendes deutschenBarock (Stuttgart: Metzler,1984); JanetTodd, A Dictionaryof
Britishand AmericanWomenWriters,1660-1800 (London: Rowman & Allanheld,
1985); Maureen Bell et al., EnglishWomenWriters,1580-1720 (Boston: Hall, 1990).
27 See Alison Weber,Teresa
of Avila and the Rhetoricof Femininity (Princeton,N.J.:
PrincetonUniversity Press,1990); Mary D. Garrard,ArtemisiaGentileschi:The Image
of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art (Princeton,N.J.: PrincetonUniversity Press,
1989); Anke Bennholdt-Thomsen and AlfredoGuzzoni, Gelehrsamkeit und Leiden-
schaft: Das Leben der ErnestineChristineReiske,1735-1798 (Munich: Beck, 1992).
28
ErikH. Erickson,YoungMan Luther(New York: Norton, 1958).

Autumn 1994 SIGNS 167

This content downloaded from 185.44.77.146 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:36:29 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Becker-Cantarino EARLY MODERN EUROPE

coded commentson royalistand republicanfactionalism.29 In her study


The Sign of Angellica:Women,Writing, and Fiction,1660-1800, Janet
Todd, whose prolificpublicationshave greatlycontributed to our aware-
nessof seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Englishwomen writers,fore-
grounds female signs and masks, the social and moral effectsof sexual
desireand manipulation.Todd tracesthenovels'collusionwiththegrow-
ing ideologyof "natural"femininity, restraint,and self-
sentimentality,
sacrificeforwomenand of separatespheresforthesexes: "The greatplot
forfemalevirtue,firstin distressthenrewardedby a glamorousdeathor
an hereditarymansion,became an immenselypotentmythof feminine
culture."30With that we have arrivedat the thresholdof the modern
period with its idolizationof femaledomesticity(and eroticism)in the
patriarchalmarriage,a sequel to the domesticationin the patriarchal
Christianhouseholdof theearlymodernage. "Prayer-book and spindle,"
signs for religious education and household productivity the middle-
of
class woman, are beingsupplantedby the end of theeighteenth century
by a new paradigm:the romanticlove storyand the "greatcouple."31
Suchfictionwas createdfora femalereadershipand, to a largeextent,by
women; in turnit influencedwomen'sconsciousness.Much of the femi-
nist impetusof earlier decades seems to have been subvertedby the
feminization of literature,or so it seems.
Feministliterary historians,as JanetTodd has explained,are interested
in thehistorically specificand in individualwomen'svoices,posinggen-
dered questionsto the authorsand theirtextswhile criticallyreflecting
theirown positions.32With the oftenproclaimeddeath of the text,of
history,and of continuousnarrativein the postmodernera, a reflection
on feministliteraryhistoryforthe earlymodernperiod is all the more
importantifwomen'sforgotten and suppressedpast traditionsare to be
reclaimed.MargaretJ.M. Ezell has elaboratedon Todd's observations
29 Jane
Spencer,The Rise of the WomanNovelistfromAphra Behn to JaneAusten
(Oxford:Basil Blackwell,1986); Dale Spender,Mothersof the Novel: 100 Good Writers
beforeJaneAusten(London: Pandora, 1986); Rosalind Miles, The Female Form:
WomenWritersand the Conquest of the Novel (New York: Routledge& Kegan Paul,
1987); Michael McKeon, The Originsof theEnglishNovel, 1600-1740 (Baltimore:
JohnsHopkins University Press,1987); Sara Heller Mendelson,The Mental Worldof
StuartWomen:ThreeStudies(Amherst:University of MassachusettsPress,1987);
CherylTurner,Livingby the Pen: WomenWritersin the EighteenthCentury(New
York: Routledge,1992); Mona Scheuermann,Her Bread to Earn: Women,Money,and
SocietyfromDefoe to Austen(Lexington:University of KentuckyPress,1992); Ros Bal-
laster,SeductiveForms: Women'sAmatoryFictionfrom1684 to 1740 (Oxford: Claren-
don, 1992); Mary Anne Schofieldand Cecilia Macheski,eds., Fetter'dor Free? British
WomenNovelists,1670-1815 (Athens:Ohio University Press,1986).
30JanetTodd, The Sign of Angellica:Women,Writing, and Fiction,1660-1800
(New York: Columbia University Press,1989), 5.
psychosocialreadingof thisfavoriteeighteenth-century
31 For a critical, notion,see
UlrikeProkop,Die Illusion vom gro,3enPaar: WeiblicheLebensentwiirfe im deutschen
Biirgertum, 1750-1770 (Frankfurt: Fischer,1991).
32
JanetTodd, FeministLiteraryHistory:A Defense (Oxford:Polity,1988).

168 SIGNS Autumn 1994

This content downloaded from 185.44.77.146 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:36:29 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
EARLY MODERN EUROPE Becker-Cantarino

andsuggests databaseforall earlymoderntextsbywomen


an electronic
authorsin orderto replacethecanonization throughanthologies and
histories
literary by a "democratic"
technology.33Butwho will have (or
take)thetimeto read everythingand selectjudiciously,and by what
forwhichreadership?
criteria, A globalelectronicdepositoryis no sub-
stitute
forreading,thinking, and
selecting, interpreting,no alternativefor
conceptualizingsome sortof a cohesive,continuousnarrativein writing
women'sliteraryhistory.Such a narrativemay well tell,but is certainly
not restricted
to, a storyof feminist
consciousness.

III. Lewd women and wicked witches

In contrastto the mostlygenteelworld of women authorsand the


sophisticatedrhetoricof literarycritics,therehas always been a senseof
a darkside ofearlymodernEurope:therelentless prosecutionsofheretics
of all shades and of unrulyor lewd women; theprogressivedisciplining
of thebodyand increasingcontrolin all strataof society;theatrocitiesin
thepenal systems;theincredibly cruelpracticesduringcivilwars,peasant
uprisings,and the religiousconflictsduringthe Counter-Reformation;
and theseeminglygenocidal,sinisterwitch-hunts. And whiletheseprac-
tices have been variouslydebated and analyzed since the earlyEnlight-
enment,onlyrecentlywiththe somewhatbelatedreceptionin American
academic circlesof NorbertElias's theoreticalwork and the seriousat-
tentionto Michel Foucaulthas thisdark side come intofullview.34Still,
women'srole remainslargelyobscured,once again displaced,as it were,
thistimeby a sophisticatedand prolificrhetoricabout "the body" and
"sexuality."35It takes a Britishself-described"revolutionaryfeminist"
likeMarianneHesterto applysexual dominationtheory,leaningheavily
on currentpornographyand rape debates,to rereadthe mechanismof
the witch-hunts witha freshapproach and specificattentionto women.
Hester'sLewd Womenand WickedWitches:A Studyof theDynamicsof
Male Dominationis a terselyarguedand economicallywrittenstudy.In

33MargaretJ. M. Ezell, WritingWomen'sLiteraryHistory(Baltimoreand London:


JohnsHopkins University Press,1993).
34Writtenin the 1930s, NorbertElias's Der Prozef3der Zivilisation(1939) was
translatedin 1978 as The CivilizingProcess (New York: Pantheon);among Michel Fou-
cault's work especiallyinfluentialhave been Madness and Civilization:A Historyof In-
sanityin theAge of Reason (New York: Pantheon,1965), Disciplineand Punish: The
Birthof the Prison (New York: Pantheon,1977), and The Historyof Sexuality(New
York: Pantheon,1978-86). NeitherElias nor Foucault are particularlysensitiveto gen-
der questions,let alone interestedin women.
35For an earlymodernstudysee, amongnumerousarticles,Gail KernPater,The Body
Embarrassed:Drama and theDisciplinesof Shame in EarlyModernEngland(Ithaca,
N.Y.: CornellUniversity Press,1993); and forthepresenttrendin eclecticallyfusingsexu-
alityand history,see JamesGranthamTurner,ed., Sexualityand Genderin EarlyModern
Europe: Institutions,Texts,Images (Cambridge:CambridgeUniversity Press,1993).

Autumn 1994 SIGNS 169

This content downloaded from 185.44.77.146 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:36:29 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Becker-Cantarino EARLY MODERN EUROPE

a challengeto androcentric historicalaccountsof thewitchtrialsthatare


obliviousto gender,Hesterreadsthewitch-hunts as an "instanceof male
sexual violenceagainstwomen,relyingon a particularconstructof fe-
male behavior.... The witch-hunts... were part of a 'dynamicsof
domination' wherebymen at the time maintained dominance over
women" (199). The definition of the witchreliedon an eroticizedcon-
structof femalebehaviorthatsaw women as threatening and in need of
control, and the witch was construed as a woman with an overlyactive,
insatiablesexualitysatisfiedonly by perversepracticeswiththe devil; a
controloverthisperceivedsexualitywas enactedin thewitch-hunt trials.
Hester'sbook willoffendmale historianswithitsseemingly global attack
on the "male supremacistsociety"and "male sexuality,"whichare seen
as a means of controllingwomen sociallyin the interestof men (106).
The book is meantas a politicalstatement, perhapsevenas provocation,
and is definitely of postmodernliterary
not addressedto the sensibilities
critics.Hester's anger is refreshing in a time of so much positioning,
posturing,fashioning,and negotiatingthat masquerades as feminist
whilescriptingegos and upholdinga comfortablestatusquo. Isn'tanger
a firststeptowardchange?Hester'sfocuson women,gender,and sexual
dominationdoes challengethe vast body of historicalstudies on the
witchtrialssince the mid-nineteenth century, most of whichfailto rec-
ognize, let alone explore,the "woman as witch"connection.36 We know
thatthevastmajorityof theaccused and convictedwerewomen,mostly
poor,single,or widowedand thattheconceptofthewitch,totallyabsent
fromthe polite Renaissancedebate on women,was used in Protestant
marriagetheologyas a negativerole model, an inversionof the house-
wife,and was intendedto control"unrulywomen."37Here lies a chal-
lengingtopic forfuturefeministhistorians.
36
See ClaudiaHonegger's "Replyto Garrett:WomenandWitches: Patternsof
Analysis,"Signs4, no. 4 (Summer 1978): 792-802. Honegger'sDie HexenderNeuzeit:
StudienzurSozialgeschichte eineskulturellenDeutungsmusters(Frankfurt:
Suhrkamp,
1978);andChristina Larner's TheEnemiesofGod (Oxford:BasilBlackwell, 1983) ar-
gueon ideologicalandsocialgrounds thatthewitch-hunts in orderto
weresex-related
controlunruly women.JosephKlaits,Servants ofSatan:TheAgeoftheWitchHunts
(Bloomington:IndianaUniversity Press,1985);and CarolKarlsen,TheDevilin the
Shapeofa Woman:Witchcraft in ColonialNewEngland(NewYork:Norton,1987) see
themas a controlmechanism againstsingleandolderwomennotunderpatriarchal su-
pervision.Thereis no historicalevidencefortheearlierviewconnectingmidwives and
witchesin thattheemerging andmasculinization
professionalization ofmedicine re-
sultedin accusations
ofwitchcraft, as was arguedbyThomasRogerForbes,TheMid-
wifeand theWitch(NewHaven,Conn.:YaleUniversity Press,1966);andBarbara
Ehrenreich andDeirdreEnglish, Witches,Midwives,andNurses(London:Writers &
Readers,1976).
37See SigridBrauner, "MartinLutheron Witchcraft: A TrueReformer?" in ThePoli-
ticsofGenderin EarlyModernEurope,ed.JeanR. Brinket al., Sixteenth Century Es-
saysand Studies, Mo.: Sixteenth
vol. 12 (Kirksville, CenturyJournalPublishers,1989),
29-42.

170 SIGNS Autumn 1994

This content downloaded from 185.44.77.146 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:36:29 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
EARLY MODERN EUROPE Becker-Cantarino

Female unrulinessand the fear of women's economic and sexual


power is also the topic of a fascinatingnew studyof popular literature.
Joy Wiltenburg'sDisorderly Womenand Female Power in the Street
Literatureof Early Modern England and Germanyfocuseson literary
misogynyin pamphlets,broadsheets,and ballads (Wiltenburgexamined
some fourthousand of them) authoredby men and many specifically
addressed to a femaleaudience. These texts depict and oftenparody
marital disorderand especiallywomen's involvementin violence and
crime;Wiltenburghas done an excellentjob in orderingand readingthis
massivebody of texts.One mightwell ask of thishistoricalstudy,How
much can these entertainingand funnytracts reveal about unruly
women? How much do the tractson witch trialsreveal about actual
witches?And about male dominance?How muchcan theyrevealabout
male versus femaleor Englishversus German mentalitebeyond mere
sexist or national cliches?As a loud voice of oftenanonymousmale
authors,thesetextsreaffirmed patriarchalcontrolin
and institutionalized
the family.Textualmisogynycould well be further exploredas a serious
featurein earlymodernEurope's genderrelations.38
A ratherenduring responseto unruly,loosewomen-mostlyprostitutes-
was thegrowthin sixteenth- and seventeenth-century CatholicEuropeof
institutionsdesignedto house repentantprostitutesand indigent,unat-
tached women. SherrillCohen has studied the records of three such
residentialinstitutionsfor femalesin and near Florencefor her richly
documentedThe Evolutionof Women'sAsylumssince 1500: FromRef-
uges forEx-Prostitutesto SheltersforBatteredWomenand has traced
the emergenceof an extensivenetworkof asylumsforwomen in early
modernEurope. Builton the potentsymbolismof prostitution withthe
sin/penitence tandem as a standardfor femalebehavior,it was most
evidentin, but by no means limitedto, Catholic countries.From the
sixteenthcenturyonward,women became increasingly subjectto insti-
tutionalization,to imprisonment forprostitution(youngmales werenot
incarceratedforthat),and (sincethenineteenth century)to mentalinsti-
tutionswith psychologicalcontrolshaving replaced religiousmethods
overwomen.Cohen combinestheinstitutional studywitha sophisticated
and empatheticdiscussionof how it affectedwomen as persons; she
thinksabout the asylum'schangingas well as its perseveringaspects.
Such linkage(not to be confusedwitha linearor teleologicalnarrative)
underscoresonce morewhythe earlymodernperiodwas such a pivotal

38
Counter-Reformation Spain restoredthe "natural"orderof God, man, and
woman, as Mary ElizabethPerryhas shown in Genderand Disorder in Early Modern
Seville(Princeton,N.J.: PrincetonUniversityPress,1990); thismeanta carefuldistinc-
tion betweenbad women and good, a closerregulationof prostitutes, and protective
enclosureforall others.

Autumn 1994 SIGNS 171

This content downloaded from 185.44.77.146 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:36:29 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Becker-Cantarino EARLY MODERN EUROPE

era for women's social developmentand for settingthe stage for the
emergenceof feministconsciousness.
The role of religionand the effectsof the Reformationand the
Counter-Reformation on women'slivesdeservespecialattention.39 Phyl-
lis Mack's thoroughlyresearchedand richlytexturedstudy Visionary
Women:EcstaticProphecyin Seventeenth-Century Englandinterweaves
of
questions genderhistory and issues in the historyof religionin her
reading of the vast of
body autobiographicalwritings, letters,and vision-
ary texts from two of
generations Quaker women from about 1640 to
1700. The earliestQuakers were radical and democratic,as theyappre-
ciated women as "help-meets"and consideredthe humanand religious
attributesof men and women to be fluidand interchangeable; the first
femaleprophetsclaimed the rightto preach in public and beforethe
doors of Parliamentby assuminga male religiouspersona and the au-
thorityof men. Quaker women traveledwidelyand independently, ex-
pressing moral and doctrinal insightsas well as visions.Women's proph-
ecy duringthe civil war period was wide-rangingand utopian,but, as
Mack argues, it also entaileda denial of womanhood as a source of
public power and expressiveness.By contrast,Quaker women of the
second generationincreasingly emphasized,besides"beingin the light,"
theintegrity and authority oftheirfamilialroleas mothersand daughters
and embraced,explicitlyand implicitly, bourgeoisvalues and views of
genderand class.40Quaker women'sincreasedauthority(expressingre-
ligiousopinions,traveling, working,and earningand controlling fundsin
thehousehold)also entailedsome sacrifices, especiallythe"cultivationof
a painfuldouble consciousness:thedenigrationof one partof themind,
called 'the creature,'by anotherpart of the mind,which watched and
subduedit" (411). It seemsthatwoman'seternaldilemmain Christianity,
the sin/penitence duality,is cloaked herein theflesh-spirit dichotomyas
femaleconscience.Women'sperceived"unruliness," so itseems,had been
internalized, had become part of theirown, self-regulatory conscience.

IV. Women and early modern patriarchy


Genderrelations,as LyndalRoperremindsus in The Holy Household,
were at thecenterof the Reformationitself.Roper'svivid,detailedpor-
39 See also SherrinMarshall,ed., Womenin Reformationand Counter-Reformation
Europe: Privateand Public Worlds(Bloomingtonand Indianapolis:Indiana University
Press,1989); W. J. Sheilsand Diana Wood, eds., Womenin the Church(Oxford: Basil
Blackwell,1990); and Craig A. Monson, ed., The CranniedWall: Women,Religion,and
theArtsin Early Modern Europe (Ann Arbor:University of MichiganPress,1992).
40 For a similardevelopmentamong Germanpietists,see "Frauen und die Kirche,"in
myDer lange Wegzur Miindigkeit:Frau und Literaturin Deutschland,1500-1800
(Stuttgart:Metzler,1987), 115-30.

172 SIGNS Autumn 1994

This content downloaded from 185.44.77.146 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:36:29 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
EARLY MODERN EUROPE Becker-Cantarino

traitof sixteenth-century Augsburgrevealsin an exemplaryfashionhow


women'sdomestication-therewriting of women'srole in marriageand
the household-became a keyelementin the successfulimplementation
and establishment oftheReformation. The reformers reliedon thetheory
of sexual difference; althoughtheycertainly did not inventit, gender
dichotomy informed their marriagetheology, which enabled a wide-
ranging social reform of gender relations and household/family organi-
zationand whichaffectedabove all everywoman'ssocietalposition.Men
and womenwerespiritually equal, and themedievalquestionsofwhether
woman is a human being and has a soul were finallyansweredin the
affirmative. Men and women's officeson thisearth,however,were de-
terminedto be different withdistinctdutiesformen (workand supervi-
sion of the household)and women (childbearingand therunningof the
household), and their relationshipwas decidedly asymmetric,with
woman beingman's helpmateand subject.41
Grounded in these religioustenetsprescribinggenderroles, the re-
formedmoralismwas distinctly patriarchal,and so was thefamily.It not
onlywas thefundamentaleconomicunitbut also providedthe basis for
thepoliticaland social order,as Susan DwyerAmussenremindsus in An
OrderedSociety:Genderand Class in EarlyModernEngland.The family
was thestructural microcosmof thestate,forwhichit servedas a meta-
phor:thefatherwas kingto his household,thekingfatherto his people,
and above thekingwas God thefather. Amussenchartsdemographicand
economicchangesin both familiesand villagesand notesthatthe chal-
lenge to genderorderwas neverexplicitor direct.Althoughthe early
seventeenth centurysaw a greatdebate on women (were theygood or
bad, orderlyor disorderly?),disorderlywomen soon disappearedfrom
view.The patriarchalhouseholdrepresented a successfulorderingin early
modernEngland;domesticity ruledsupreme,or so it seemedat least.42
Domesticlifestoriesof seventeenth-century womentellus thatmiddle-
class womenin a numberofdifferent waysdid profitincreasinglyfromthe
patriarchalhouseholdand its economicsuccess. Such women mightbe
able to withdrawgraduallyfrommanyof the choresand enjoy leisure
when the husband's means providedfor such a lifestyle, as Margaret

41 The actualchoresof andmotheringaredescribed invividdetailin


childbearing
ValerieFildes,Womenas Mothers in Pre-Industrial
England:Essaysin Memory ofDor-
othyMcLaren(LondonandNew York:Routledge, 1990);also ofinterestbyFildesis
Breasts,Bottlesand Babies:A History ofInfantFeeding(Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univer-
sityPress,1986),and WetNursing: A History fromAntiquity to thePresent(Oxford:
BasilBlackwell, 1988).
42 See also SusanCahn,Industry ofDevotion:TheTransformation of Women's
WorkinEngland,1500-1660 (NewYork:ColumbiaUniversity Press,1987);Margaret
George,Womenin theFirstCapitalist Society:Experiencesin Seventeenth-Century
En-
gland(Urbana:University ofIllinoisPress,1988).

Autumn 1994 SIGNS 173

This content downloaded from 185.44.77.146 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:36:29 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
Becker-Cantarino EARLY MODERN EUROPE

Ezell has pointed out in her use of literarysources in The Patriarch's


Wife."Domestic patriarchalism"providedstatus,power over servants,
authorityand influenceover childrenand relatives,economic security,
perhapsluxury,and timeforintellectual,cultural,and artisticpursuits
such as music,reading,drawing,learninga foreignlanguage,dancing,
and so on. Bytheend of theearlymodernera,thehouseholdhad become
the bourgeoishome,comfortableand idyllicwhen economicmeans and
people's dispositionsallowed it; its glories,but also its trialsand tribu-
lations,were stuffforthe novel. Rarelywas the basis forand value of
domesticity itselfquestioned.So muchforthemarriageof fictionand the
of
ideology domesticity. Historicalfamilyand householdresearch,on the
otherhand,tellsa different story.In a meticulously executedlegal study
of Married Women'sSeparatePropertyin England, 1660-1833, Susan
Staves concludesthat "at the deepestlevel, in patriarchalsocietyrules
concerningmarriedwomen'spropertyhave always functionedto facili-
tatethetransmission of significantpropertyfrommale to male"; women
receivedsubsistenceforthemselvesand minorchildren.43 The underlying
patriarchal structure insured the men's hold on property.
EarlymodernEuropeembracedpatriarchy on all levels;society'sorder
was referredto and explained, again and again, in patriarchalmeta-
phors.44The father-son lineagewas inscribedin its religiousfoundation
and secularinstitutions; togetherwithmale bondingin the privateand
publicsphere,itinsuredmen'spoweroverwomenand women'ssexuality
withinthehousehold,woman's ordainedplace. Womeninternalized, ne-
gotiated,exploited,usurped,rebelled,butmostlyadaptedand acquiesced
in theirlot. In theseeminglyhomogeneousyetmultifaceted web of early
modernpatriarchy, misogyny, and prowomansentiments, theemergence
of "feministconsciousness"is anotherstory,and by farthe most chal-
lengingone, I would think.
In reflecting on this recentbody of scholarshipon women in early
modernEurope,it is interesting to note the investigators' own position-
ing. While most Britishauthorsexpresslyand gratefully acknowledge
theirdebtto whattheynameas the"women'smovement,"literaryschol-
ars in the UnitedStates seem to follow anotherpattern:theypoint to
numerousindividualsand produce long lists of "names" in theirfield
(kudos to the"in"-people,it seems)and of fellowshipand grantingagen-
cies thatreadlikea social registerfromamongliterature departments and
foundations.A few pages later "elitism" and "hegemonicgestures"are

43SusanStaves,MarriedWomen's SeparatePropertyinEngland,1660-1833 (Cam-


Mass.,andLondon:HarvardUniversity
bridge, Press,1990),229.
44Seetheexcellent
analysisofgenderconceptson thethresholdfromearlymodern
Europeto themodern periodin ClaudiaHonegger,Die Ordnung derGeschlechter
andNew York:Campus,1992).
(Frankfurt

174 SIGNS Autumn 1994

This content downloaded from 185.44.77.146 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:36:29 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
EARLY MODERN EUROPE Becker-Cantarino

decriedbeforewe are led through"new readings"of (mostly)canonical


texts by (mostly)canonical authors,fromBoccaccio and Christinede
Pizan to Shakespeare,Sidney,and the Countess of Pembroke.By con-
trast,almostnone of the authorsof recenthistoricalstudies,as faras I
was able to discern,holds a university positionin herfield.It seemsto me
thatwritingfromwithinthe safe haven of a tenured(or tenurable)aca-
demic positionin the humanitiesat a (major, white,North American)
universitymay blind us to the significanceof patriarchyand feminist
consciousnessin earlymodernEurope. And onlythere?
As advocatedbynew historicism, a rapprochement betweentheprac-
tices of historiansand literaryscholars appears to be most fruitful in
studying the feministsubjectof women while of
cognizant its problem-
atics. For thissubject,thereis stilla lot of historicalevidenceout there,
textualand archival,thatneedsto be recoveredand read. Yet therace in
some quarters for fashioninga discursivecategory of "femininity"
througha seeminglyarbitraryassemblage of miscellaneoustextsmay
well be anotherpatriarchalruse. So may be the presentpreoccupation
with "the body,"with "identity," and with "sexuality."While we redis-
cover or discussanew earliersubstantive,provocativestudieslike Alice
Clark's The WorkingLife of Womenin theSeventeenth Century(1919),
the endlesstextualnegotiationsand fashioningsof the once fashionable
New Criticismcollect ever more dust in our libraries.45By the same
token, I would conjecturethat studies based on substantiveevidence
(includingtheirtheoreticalframesand methodologies)like Visionary
Women:EcstaticProphecyin Seventeenth-Century England or Writing
WomeninJacobeanEnglandor The Creationof FeministConsciousness
will continueto engage readers,perhapsanger or awe them,forsome
timeto come.

Departmentof German
Ohio State University

45 Clark (n. 12 above).

Autumn 1994 SIGNS 175

This content downloaded from 185.44.77.146 on Wed, 18 Jun 2014 16:36:29 PM


All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions