Title

Irony, Shame, and Generosity: The Complexity of Whitney’s The Copy of a Letter

Abstract

Early women writers have often been dismissed by 20th- and 21st-century critics for the limits of their literary skills or feminism. Isabella Whitney, for example, was accused of emotionless didacticism as well as a self-demeaning and typically moral stance. In our attempt to disrupt traditional stereotypes, however, it has been tempting to focus on women with confrontational rhetoric at the cost of women whose subversion was more subtle. In my presentation on Whitney's The Copy of a Letter, I examine the ways in which Whitney used the very personae society had assigned to her— such as the languishing female lover of the Ovidian tradition— and recreated them in a way that can be both assertive and deeply moving.

Faculty Sponsor

Theresa DiPasquale

Tracks

Literary Criticism

Terms of Use

ARMINDA Terms of Use

Location

Olin 129

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

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Irony, Shame, and Generosity: The Complexity of Whitney’s The Copy of a Letter

Olin 129

Early women writers have often been dismissed by 20th- and 21st-century critics for the limits of their literary skills or feminism. Isabella Whitney, for example, was accused of emotionless didacticism as well as a self-demeaning and typically moral stance. In our attempt to disrupt traditional stereotypes, however, it has been tempting to focus on women with confrontational rhetoric at the cost of women whose subversion was more subtle. In my presentation on Whitney's The Copy of a Letter, I examine the ways in which Whitney used the very personae society had assigned to her— such as the languishing female lover of the Ovidian tradition— and recreated them in a way that can be both assertive and deeply moving.

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