"The Single Woman's Guide to Renaissance London: Isabella Whitney, a Very Early Female Poet"

Presented by Cora Fox

Associate Professor of English, Department of English, ASU

Thursday, June 13, 2013 at 7:00pm, Changing Hands Bookstore

About the Program
Isabella Whitney, who served as a maidservant in a wealthy household in London, was the first female writer to publish secular poetry in English. She was also one of Europe's first female professional poets. She published two volumes of poetry (in 1567 and 1578) in an age when women had few public rights and very limited access to formal education. This is remarkable enough; but what is even more remarkable is that in her poems she asserts her right to be compensated for the labor of writing. In her most famous poem, called "Will and Testament" by critics of her poetry, she ironically bequeaths London to itself and describes in lavish detail its streets filled with butchers and bookbinders, the poor and disenfranchised and the riotous young men of the Inns of Court. Biting and critical, but linked in obvious kinship with her vibrant city, Whitney offers us a rare look at everyday life for a woman writer when there was really no such thing.

About Cora Fox
Cora Fox is Associate Professor of English at Arizona State University, where she teaches Renaissance Literature. She is the author of Ovid and the Politics of Emotion in Elizabethan England (Palgrave, 2009) and co-editor of Approaches to Teaching the Works of Ovid and the Ovidian Tradition (MLA, 2010). She has also written articles on representations of women in Renaissance literature from various perspectives and is currently working on a book on happiness in Shakespeare.