Shakespeare’s Sisters

Course information


Shakespeare’s Sisters


Larisa Kocic-Zámbó [Zámbóné Kocic Larisa]

Course code

YSE_BTKO11 [???]







Course description

Short description

Drawing on the last two decades of literary scholarship recreating the hidden literary cannon of female writers, this course is an introduction to the work of early modern women writers in England — Shakespeare literary sisters—roughly between 1500 and 1700. The course will focus on a selection of primary sources (authored both by men and women) to show how these texts contribute to, and reflect the gender expectations of their authors and audiences. We will discuss questions of historical context, discussing women's access to education and literacy, the legal status of women during the periods we are considering, and differences between Early Modern and Modern notions of authorship and of "originality." Particular attention will be paid to women's literacy and the efforts of women writers to create a place for themselves within a literary canon largely hostile to women. The course is made up of three major topic: (1) the classical sources of medieval misogyny with the polemical "Querelle des femmes" tradition in the center, a literary debate in 16th-17th century Europe about the nature and status of women; (2) religious topics, with a particular focus on the narrative of Creation and the Fall, as provided the dominant discourse justifying women’s subordination, consequently, as Gerda Lerner notes, the Bible was the first and for long the only focus for women to engage in (re)interpretations and self-expressions in both life-writing, translations/paraphrases, theological debates, devotional works, poetry and fiction; (3) women’s place in the realm of politics, actual or imaginary relations of power. All in all, when reading the primary texts, we will examine the various beliefs concerning the "nature" of women, expectations about suitable roles for women, and women's status in early modern society.






Requirements to get the grade

Active participation in disscusions, primary text preparation, written assignment (seminar paper).

Reading list

Compulsory readings will be available on CooSpace.

Suggested reading list

Aughterson, Kate, ed. 1999. Renaissance Woman: A Sourcebook. Constructions of Femininity in England. London and New York: Routledge.

Knoppers, Laura Lunger, ed. 2009. The Cambridge Companion to Early Modern Women’s Writing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Martin, Randall, ed. 2010. Women Writers in Renaissance England. Harlow: Pearson.

Salzman, Paul. 2006. Reading Early Modern Women’s Writing. Oxford: Oxford University Press.