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The Feminine Reclaimed

The Feminine Reclaimed: The Idea of Woman in Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton

Stevie Davies
Copyright Date: 1986
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The Feminine Reclaimed
    Book Description:

    The Feminine Reclaimedbreaks new ground in the field of Renaissance scholarship. Stevie Davies considers the feminine principle as it was developed through the humanist and Neoplatonic revival of ancient classical learning and from this perspective approaches the major works of the three great literary figures of the English Renaissance -- Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton.

    Through close, perceptive readings of their most crucial works, informed by a familiarity with the whole range of their context in the European literature and thought of their time, Stevie Davies is able to demonstrate the great importance of the feminine principle in the consciousness of these writers and their age, a time of political, religious, and social upheaval in which perceptions of woman and her status in society underwent momentous changes. She analyzes guiding symbols, mythical allusions, and literary structures in major works by the three poets to show that this rediscovered image of the feminine was incorporated intoThe Faerie Queene, Shakespeare's last plays, andParadise Lostin such a manner as to create an alternative system of values which either redefined or criticized the patriarchal structures of the contemporary world.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5896-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. ii-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. Note on Texts and Abbreviations
    (pp. xii-xii)
  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-36)

    Woman in life and woman in art are not the same person. The ancient androgynous dream of two becoming one, gender dissolving into gender, has been fulfilled neither in Renaissance England nor in any other state of culture. All this book will claim is that in Renaissance poetry such dreams are familiar and powerful: man’s affinity with woman, along with a high valuation of the feminine and a wish to incorporate and emulate it, appears to be an obsession of the period. I shall call Spenser, Shakespeare and Milton’s art ‘feminist’ in this sense, though with very different individual emphases....

  6. 2 Spenser
    (pp. 37-104)

    The poet who was to celebrate the virgin queen of England as the Gloriana of his unfinished epic,The Faerie Queene, was by a graceful coincidence framed during his life by a group of four Elizabeths. The first is his mother, Elizabeth Spenser, with whom in the beautifulProthalamionhe perhaps indentifies London as his ‘Lifes first native sourse’ (129), associating the place of his origin with the person who originated him. A sister was also named Elizabeth. The third Elizabeth, whose power dominates his public and poetic life, is Queen Elizabeth I, to whom he dedicates the art of...

  7. 3 Shakespeare
    (pp. 105-174)

    Boy-and-girl twins are thecoinddentia oppositorumin person, simultaneous selves of opposed gender, attached to source at a fused root of being. As an experiment in human nature, they have seemed in many cultures to inhabit a borderline of proximity to the divine. Miraculous births such as that of Artemis (Diana) and her twin, Apollo, have been read as special articulations of divinity, deeply associated with the art of poetry. In their duality, such twins encompass wholeness, the range of human possibility in miniature, suggesting a tantalising condition of blessedness to which man in the singular fruitlessly aspires. To be...

  8. 4 Milton
    (pp. 175-247)

    Milton, notorious as one of the great misogynists of our literature, had one son. His name was John Milton. The boy died before he reached one year of age. Milton’s first wife, Mary Powell, had blessed him only with girl-children, which his nephew, John Phillips, narrates thus in his memoir: ‘His first Wife dy’d a while after his blindness seized him, leaving him three Daughters, that liv’d to bee Women’.¹ Blindness and daughters became related problems for Milton. His other nephew, Edward Phillips, told of how the poet ‘supplied his want of Eye-sight by their Eyes and Tongue’,² forcing the...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 248-261)
  10. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 262-265)
  11. Index
    (pp. 266-274)