Molekamp 2013

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Molekamp, Femke. Women and the Bible in Early Modern England: Religious Reading and Writing. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013.

Introduction: The Vernacular Bible and Early Modern Englishwomen: Shifting Possibilities

Throckmorton, recalling her mother reading secretly from religious books to family in 16c

"The Bible lay at the heart of early modern female reading culture, and women can be seen to have participated in multiple modes of reading it, which, in turn, fostered various kinds of literary writing." (1)

act prohibiting women from reading the Bible

Katherine Parr, Lamentacion of a Sinner (1547) -- "passionate celebration of the personalized act of Bible-reading" that counters the law

"At a juncture between the old religion and the new, Parr stands as an influential figure of transition. As the first Englishwoman to have her original writing printed she also marks a transition in the history of female religious agency and in the possibilities for textual authority attendant upon print culture." (2)

"From the earliest days of the publication of the English Bible in print, women have been engaged in interpretative and activist reading, as well as affective, meditative reading of the scriptures, and have manifested these modes of reading in religious writing." (3)

Parr and Elizabeth I are "exceptional women"

QE1 accepting the Bible during coronation procession -- emblematic action that ensures she will be a Protestant ruler; but not straightforward; fraught relationship to symbolism of it

Geneva Bible -- most widely-circulated books of QE1's reign

"This Bible, therefore, helped to introduce and sustain a female readership of the Bible in English." (6) -- Great Bible already used in Churches, but Geneva that brought it into households

"Women and the Bible examines the diverse cultures of Bible- reading in which early modern women engaged, and maps their connection to forms of female writing. The focus is on just over a century of reading and writing, from 1550–1670, as this is a vital time in the history of female reading of the Bible, due to the widespread circulation of the vernacular printed Bible, especially with the Geneva Bible, printed from 1576 in England, and with the publication of the AV Bible from 1611. This is also a crucial period for the burgeoning of female literary agency." (6)

"In the later sixteenth century, and throughout the seventeenth century, women's religious writing diversified in genre and entered increasingly into a public literary sphere. A growing number of devotional literary works by women were circulated in manuscript or print, including meditation books, mothers’ advice books, translations, poems, and religious treatises. This growth in female devotional literary culture can be linked to the shifting politics of literacy. The interpretative agency gained by women through increased access to the vernacular household Bible meant that women participated in and (depending on status) could also organize, devotional reading at home that involved servants, children, and female neighbours. The practices which Rose Throckmorton described in her autobiography, which had to take place secretly, came to constitute one of the central daily responsibilities of (literate) mistresses of the household. The communal aspect of domestic religious reading meant that Bible-reading cultures for women often involved networks, which might sometimes be constructed around shared ideological and literary interests. As scholarship on this period is increasingly establishing, the early modern household was anything but a restricted or hermetically sealed sphere of action, but could be ‘a headquarters for religious and political activism both at the national and international levels’." (7)

"Women's religious writing mobilizes a variety of reading practices which facilitate hermeneutic authority." (8) -- Anne Wheathill, Elizabeth Melville

"In the seventeenth century, women continued reading the scriptures in diverse contexts and modes, and as sectarianism proliferated some women increasingly used the text of the scriptures to support the expression of their particular religious identities." (8) -- Constant Aston Fowler, Agnes Beaumont, Eleanor Davies

"Female readings of the Bible took on positions that were often revisionist, radical, or entrenched, as women experienced the religious and political dislocations of the century. It is clear that there was a growth of original, interpretative, female religious writing in early modern England that was specifically linked to reading cultures that had developed around the availability of the Bible in English." (9)

querelle des femmes -- Amelia Lanyer, Rachel Speght, Margaret Fell

Importance of Bible reading, quoted by Sherman 2008, Brian Cummings places it in trajectory of Christian humanism

"My study builds on these approaches in recognizing that women engaged with their Bibles in material, interpretative ways that are at once highly personal and culturally and politically inflected, and that these modes of reading provide structures for female religious writing. Religious reading engaged the passions which were embodied and in need of proper direction and control." (12)

"A central premise of Women and the Bible is that reading and writing do not constitute two separate spheres, but that reading is implicated in acts of writing, just as acts of writing sometimes enhance reading processes (through annotation, or commonplacing, for example). I think it is highly useful and productive to ‘bring literary and textual approaches into conversation with material studies of the book’, as Jennifer Richards and Fred Schurink have recently argued. Women and the Bible combines literary critical perspectives on women's writing with approaches that are taken from the history of the book and reading, a field that has recently gained a high profile in early modern scholarship. It recognizes that the reading or writing of a text is governed by a host of material and cultural conditions. An early modern woman might, for example, have had her reading life transformed by the small format of her portable Bible, its interpretative apparatus, and the social networks involved in the devotional and hermeneutic practice in which she chose to engage. She may in turn have drawn upon these dynamics of her religious reading life in her writing, particularly given that the Bible was the most authoritative text available in early modern reading life, and that the establishment of an authoritative interpretative and literary voice could be complicated for women." (13)

"Also central to the conceptual framework of this study is the consideration that early modern women's writing participated in the breadth and diversity of early modern textual practices, which cannot necessarily be associated with discrete genres or single authors. Just as female devotional reading cultures were frequently communal, so a number of the female texts I examine represent a collective enterprise. Many do not conform to the parameters of a single genre, but display hybridity and openness in their content and structure. These texts also frequently operate at the boundaries between public and private, developing strong voices from essentially liminal positions, such as those occupied by printed mothers’ legacies and printed collections of prayers that have their origin in the devotional life of a particular woman." (13)