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LHMP #267 Sedinger 2003 Working Girls

Full citation: 

Sedinger, Tracey. 2003. “Working Girls: Status, Sexual Difference, and Disguise in Ariosto, Spenser, and Shakespeare” in The Single Woman in Medieval and Early Modern England: Her Life and Representation, ed. by Laurel Amtower and Dorothea Kehler. Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Tempe. ISBN 0-06698-306-6

Publication summary: 

A collection of articles on the general topic of how single women are represented in history and literature in medieval and early modern England. Not all of the articles are clearly relevant to the LHMP but I have included all the contents.

Working Girls

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Despite their statistical commonness, singlewomen were treated as an anomaly without a recognized role in society, especially after the Reformation removed the option of convents as a marriage-alternative in Protestant countries. The feminist historians’ goal of recovering women’s identities has leaned on two assumptions: that “single” women were rarely actually alone, and that unmarried women’s identities can be revealed in their relations to other women. [Note: this is not necessarily implying romantic relationships.] Recent [as of this publication] critiques of these approaches can be found in two collections: Singlewomen in the European Past: 1250-1800 and Maids and Mistresses, Cousins and Queens: Women’s Alliances in Early Modern England. [Note: this is on my shopping list of books to track down.] But this latter approach overlooks the importance of barriers of class between women and seeks to identify a unitary “woman’s experience.”

This article takes a literary criticism approach to three versions of the story of Ariodante and Ginevra (an episode that appears in Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso) that addresses the problem of that “false coherence” of women’s lives. As a whole, the article has little relevance to the Project.

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