Seventeenth-Century English Women’s Autobiographical Writings

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Manuscript discusses and explains the appearance and proliferation of the early modern Englishwomen’s autobiographical writings. In order to provide some answers, this work draws upon a large number of primary documents and close textual analysis. The diaries and autobiographies in question are examined within their historical and ideological context and they are seen as textual spaces that cannot be easily put into clear-cut categories. This study eventually sheds more light not only on the lives of the early modern women and several little-known autobiographical texts by them, but also on the development of autobiography and the diary in the western tradition.


“In the last twenty years much has come to the surface about early modern women—facts about the conditions they lived in, the ideas they were exposed to, the education they did or did not receive, the roles they played or were prevented from playing. Many of women's intellectual products—pamphlets, poems, dramas, romances, histories, diaries and autobiographies—have also been discovered by dedicated scholars and illuminated by the method of analysis that focuses on gender. This study comes to shed light on one aspect of these forms of writing, the autobiographical, which has received comparatively less critical attention than the other forms….. Effie Botonaki's study participates in the on-going debate on such issues and makes its own contribution to the field by analyzing not only the well-known autobiographies and diaries but also others, which are little known or still in manuscript form. Additionally, the largely original discussion of historically specific spatial and textual entities (the diary and the closet, autobiography and the tomb) responds to the need for more complex contextualization, which will enable us to understand women's writing as part of other cultural forms.” - (From the Commendatory Preface) Tina Krontiris, Aristotle University

“Rich in original research and lucidly argues, this study illuminates the changing image of upper and middle class women in the 17th century as it emerges from their diaries and autobiographies…..This study is a significant contribution to the field in that it helps us recover the true history of 17th century women. By foregrounding the contradictory discursive positions which these women assume in their writings, it enables the modern reader to glimpse beyond the fixed images of female “passivity” at those historical, female actors from whose lives and writings emerge the counter-images of resistance, daring and struggle.” - Dr Jina Politi, Professor Emeritus, Aristotle University and Former Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge

"In this book, Effie Botonaki providesa feminist-inflected reading of a group of texts that, in recent years, have received ever-increasing critical attention ... Overall, this volume should be quite useful for scholars and students of early modern women's writing." - Sixteenth Century Journal

Table of Contents

1 A "Proper Garb of Piety, Modesty, and Humility"?:Women’s Diaries and the Protestant Prayer Manuals
2 Entering Diaries and Closets
3 Arraying a Self in Disarray: Margaret Cavendish's Autobiography
4 Autobiography, Death and Monumentalization

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