Voicing Women

English, School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies

College of Arts and Law


Code 19638

Level of study Third/Final year

Credit value 20

Semester 1

Pre-requisite modules You must have completed at least two years of appropriate study in this discipline

Module description

Women's voices began to appear in print and manuscript in increasing numbers during the seventeenth century. While some women wrote in the literary genres of poetry, prose fiction and drama, many wrote and published work in other forms (letters, petitions, practical handbooks, spiritual autobiographies, diaries and memoirs). Women's spoken words were also shaped by others and given printed expression (polemical speeches, prophesies, religious and political controversy). In this course you will explore not only the work of some well-known literary writers of the period (such as Mary Wroth, Margaret Cavendish and Aphra Behn) but also a selection of kinds of writings produced by women of varying social status; from aristocrats and gentry to tradeswomen and serving women. The course will examine some of the issues raised by the reading of such texts, such as: what are the characteristics of early writing by women? What was the relationship between manuscript and print in this period? How have these writers and their texts been treated by literary critics? How did women relate to contemporary ideas of author/authority? Are these texts necessarily subversive of cultural/political traditions? How were women's voices shaped (or distorted) by the intermediaries between female speaker or writer and 'her' text?

Teaching and learning methods

Seminar and plenary session