Clarke 2001

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Clarke, Danielle. The Politics of Early Modern Women's Writing. Essex: Pearson Education Limited, 2001.

Poetry, Politics and Gender (Chapter 5)

critique of notion that the individual emerged in the Renaissance; subjectivity is unwittingly defined as male subjectivity

"The forms of display and impersonation used by male authors and the literary marketplace meant that it was almost impossible for an actual female historical agent to adopt the position scripted for her without alteration -- even if she were simply to ventriloquise male discourse, her position as 'author' would remain anomalous and her status would mean that 'her' words would signify differently. This is particularly true for a form like lyric poetry where there is a need for some degree of overlap (howeer illusory) between the speaker and what she or he speaks, but not for the degree of subordination of self to voice that may be found in other types of writing. What this clearly illustrates is the asymmetry of male and female subject positions -- whereas a male author can move relatively easily into the female voice, the same cannot be said of a female author, who may ventriloquise the male oie but not properly possess that voice which is in some sense her 'own'." (191)
"Because of the dynamics of literary circulation and evaluation, and the ways in which these are articulated through discourses of gender, it is virtually impossible for a woman's poetry to replicate the exchange-value which attaches to poetry by men. Of necessity the circulation of women's poetry in the public sphere is always conditional; like women's education its functions tend towards reinforcing the status quo rather than challenging it. Such texts run a double risk; either they are indelibly marked by their gender, as 'women's poetry' as opposed to the unmodified but implicitly male 'poetry', or the link between agent and artefact is threatened with erasure, often by women authors themselves. The lack of direct access to a publicly acknowlede exchange-value may explain a tendency towards circulation (even if this was a deliberately created illusion) within the private or familial sphere, for this is where women and the feminine held a high exchange-value, even if our sense of it as purely private may often be anachronistic." (191-2)

Isabella Whitey

"Despite the precariousness of these biographical 'facts', critics have nevertheless attempted to read Whitney's writings in relation to her life, rather than recognising her repeated engagement with a range of well-established poetic scenarios." (192-3)

relative lack of critical attention perhaps due to the fact that there is no easy male author to pair her with

Whitney represents transition between "elite, humanistic classical culture and already extant vernacular and popular tradition", evident in her use of fourteeners and woodcuts (194)

  • "In many ways, what makes Whitney unique is precisely her position on the cusp between various literary systems, the fact that she represents a moment of transition which predates the elite reinvigoration of native forms represented most forcibly by Sir Philip Sidney." (194)

reads Whitney in terms of credit/debt structures