Crawford 2014

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Crawford, Julie. Mediatrix: Women, Politics, and Literary Production in Early Modern England. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2014.


"Each of the women discussed in this book can be characterized as a “Mediatrix” in much the same way as Donne characterized Bedford: politically and culturally powerful, but with an edge of oppositionism; at once a patron to be honored and a force to be reckoned with; a maker of texts and a maker of careers." (2)

pushback against early scholarship on how women were always negotiating masculine ideologies; "in arguing that women’s writing served as an (often) effective form of political resistance to what were undoubtedly powerful discourses, these critics often gave those discourses too much credit." (2)

"Yet the women who produced literary texts in the early modern period did not do so primarily in order to “find a voice” in print, nor to make cultural space for such a phenomenon as “the woman writer.” Their motivations for writing and publishing literary texts were as varied as those of men: they wrote for literary experimentation and pleasure; for fame, or its mitigation; for economic survival and socioeconomic ambition; for friends, supporters, and communities; for purposes of criticism and advice. The same can be said, moreover, of the women who supported writers, and those who were their readers." (3)
"More than mere flattery, authors’ solicitation and interpellation of women patrons and readers was often part of an ongoing engagement with the causes in which those women were actively and vitally involved. Indeed in many cases, the production of literature was itself a form of activism." (4)

coteries: "Larger than the “little commonwealth” of marriage, and smaller than the body politic of the nation, these structures of affiliation were at once heuristics of interpretation, and materially real; indeed it is precisely this duality that makes them such interesting subjects of study.15 In revisiting the claim that the restricted, patriarchal, nuclear family was the primary basis of social organization in the period, scholars have turned their attention to the extended household and to wider kinship and affinity networks: communities that cohered around shared familial, regional, socioeconomic, religious, and political interests.16 Frequently, the production of literature was both an expression of a given community’s interests and a means of promoting them.17 Among other things, the production of literature helped to create and sustain exclusive societies: what Earl Miner calls “the little society of the good few.”" (6)

Leicester-Sidney-Essex-Herbert alliance

"Mediatrix argues that the texts discussed in its chapters were intimately related to the political concerns of the alliance that produced them, but it also argues that women played a crucial role both in the production of these texts, and in effecting the political goals they served. Rather than mere support staff, many of the women discussed in this book, including Mary Sidney Herbert and Lucy Harington Russell, served, at various points, as the leaders and spokespeople for the alliance. This leadership, moreover, was both literal and symbolic." (10)
"Their work as literary producers is thus registered not only in title-pages and dedications, but (p.12) also within the texts themselves, where they and their work can be seen in figures ranging from the learned disputants in puritan treatises to the Roman heroines in neostoic tragedy and the ciphered heroines of chivalric romances." (11-12)
"While the familial interrelationships are certainly part of the story I tell in this book, I am interested in these women less as mothers, daughters, and wives than as members of an alliance and heads of powerful households. In particular, I am interested in them as “almoners of ways”—mediatrixes who served as go-betweens for the various interests and offices that made up political life in early modern England." (12)
"As neither the easy beneficiaries of the privileges of property nor wholly marginal to them, the women discussed in this book understood property as a matter of both local governance and broader political negotiation. The labors they practiced, enabled, and oversaw—each of the estates discussed in this book relied on the unseen and often highly exploited labor of others— were rarely separable into ready categories.89 The regional location and concerns of these homes and estates influenced everything from an author’s choice of genre and co-readers to the formats in which they published their texts.90 The mediatrix’s function was often carried out textually: through letters, news, petitions and pleas, contracts and orders, opinion papers and responses, and statements of intent. Many of the texts we now think of as “literary” reflect the same kinds of power-brokering we associate with these more direct forms of political engagement." (24)