The Single Woman in Medieval and Early Modern England: Her Life and Representation

The Single Woman in Medieval and Early Modern England: Her Life and Representation

Edited by Laurel Amtower (San Diego State University ) and Dorothy Kehler (San Diego State University )
2003 | 242 pp. | 978-0-86698-306-8 | Cloth 6 x 9 in
MRTS 263 | $35 | £30 |

Out of Print.

During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, single women in England might occupy one of more categories in accordance with their life stages, lifestyles, and economic status. Under the rubric of the single woman are found widows; well-born "spinsters" provided for by their families; entrepreneurs; wage earners, many of whom were servants or farm workers; nuns and the handicapped (the latter also often sheltered by the church); unwed mothers; cross-dressers, some of whom may have been lesbians; kept women; and prostitutes. This anthology mirrors the negotiations between the actual life circumstances of women and their ideological constructions on the page and stage. These multivalent negotiations in some ways sustain, in others contradict, the received notion of an increasingly vehement patriarchialism limiting opportunities for women's independence and offering few fictional models of women who found happiness outside of marriage.

The contributions here are divided between those who discuss the stifling effects of misogyny and those who uncover not only significant pockets of resistance to inequality but also a sheer disregard of misogynous traditions on the part of English institutions as well as individuals. This anthology will be of interest to graduate students and advanced scholars in English medieval and Renaissance studies, including social history and economics, the visual arts, and especially literature.