Review Questions for English 390
FOUR of these questions will comprise the final exam; you will be asked to write on
Each of the questions asks you to discuss at least two of the women writers we
studied. You may use the same woman writer in two of your answers, but make
sure to say different things about her (don’t reuse and recycle; build and expand).
Overall you should discuss a minimum of three different women writers in your
exam answers. But remember this is a minimum! I strongly encourage you to
I will be available in my office (Humanities Centre 3-45) on Friday 10 December
12:00-1:00 and Monday 13 December 12:00-1:00. At that times you can pick up
graded assignments and ask questions relating to your revision for the exam (I
won’t, though, tell you how to answer a given question).
Our final exam will be held in our regular classroom, Humanities Centre 2-
26, on Tuesday 14 December, 9:00-11:00.
1.How might we define an ‘early modern feminism’? Articulate a definition
that seems to you to work for the early modern period, and then discuss
the lives and writings of at least two of the women we studied to test how
far we might venture to call them ‘feminist’.
- Wroth’s “Love Victorie”: her writing suggests that women should have
more agency when choosing a husband. At the time parents, aunts,
uncles, and even the King would choose a husband for a woman. She had
very little influence in the decision, her suitor would usually be chosen
based on status and wealth: things which would progress the family in
court. Love was rarely a thing that could be considered in marriage.
- maybe compare Wroth and Cavendish (find out more about her husband
and their life together)
2.Discuss one of more of the following as shaping forces on early modern
women’s writing: marital status, social status, religious belief, political
affiliation. Take your examples from at least two of the women writers we
- Anne Clifford: wrote in order to fight for her right to her father’s
inheritance. If she did not have this experience, would she have ever written in the first place? Is there any evidence supporting that she had
intended for her writing to be published?
- Wroth: it is possible that she wrote Love’s Victory as a childish fantasy, to
create a world in which she could rebel against the social institution of
marriage. At the time, your family would decide on your husband. It was
widely known that Wroth hated her husband and that she had developed
an (unhealthy?) interest in her cousin. If we consider the possibility that
Musella is Wroth and that Philip is her cousin, it would seem that she is
creating a world in which SHE could chose her husband and marry for
LOVE. Unlike Clifford, there is no question as to whether or not she would
have written other works if she had never experienced this unrequited
love which seems central to Love’s Victorie. Wroth comes from a very
influential family, her aunt and uncle were both prominent writers of their
times. Her uncle appears to be the key to her literary development. I
would argue that even if she had been happily married, she would have
found other things to write about because she would not have been able
to ignore her literary skills and ambitions. It was impossible for a woman
to have any real power and status in court, by this I mean that without a
wealthy and prominent husband, women would never amount to very
much. Wroth’s dedication and determination implies that she was
desperate for popularity, she wrote in ways which women had never done
before. She is one of the first women to write of Love through a woman’s
perspective, where the woman is the aggressive pursuer of a male lover.
3.How do women writers relate to other women as patrons, friends,
lovers, or models for their own writing and agency? Are the women writers
we studied always interested in the empowerment of other women?
Discuss at least two of the women writers we studied.
- Anne Clifford: seems almost, disinterested in other women. Her diary
presents a cool and calculated woman who is determined to do nothing
but save her inheritance. She appeals to her mother for support during
her battle and after she dies it would appear that she is one against many.
She appeals to her husband and tries to convince him that he should
support her in her fight. She vows to leave her fortune to him because she
has no heirs of her own, which is odd because she had daughters at this
time. Not claiming her daughters as the rightful heirs to her own fortune
contradicts the claim she has to her father’s inheritance. This makes it
difficult to determine the motivation behind fighting so desperately for the
money, how can she have a claim to her inheritance when she believes
her daughters have no claim to hers? Could this suggest that she is now
trying everything in her power to convince her husband, even though she
thinks all hope is lost? - Aemilia Lanyer: a con artist or a capable writer creating a community of women? She appeals
to the "Good Christians" through her numerous allusions and recollections of divine beings.
She is so audacious as to claim that her writing was the word of God, that she was divinely
visited and touched by God. She dedicated a large portion of her poetry to women, of nobility
and power. At the time, writers would send a copy of their work, which included the
dedication, to the dedicatee. And in return for being graced and honoured in such a way, the
dedicatee would normally send the writer a small "tip" in thanks. Patronage is key in this
time, all writers were aware of their patrons. Patrons might award their agents with
hospitality: social invitations or even accommodations. Being seen alongside powerful
patrons would afford writers familiarity with people in higher social status’ a