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Aemilia Lanyer

LHMP entry

This article examines early origins of the default understanding of “woman” as racially specific (i.e., white women). This is viewed through the lens of early 17th century author Aemelia Lanyer that explores the concept of “womanhood” as a social rather than individual identity defined to some extent by who that identity excludes. Specifically including racialized exclusions as experienced by the author via her own Italian and Jewish heritage (identities that were racialized in Early Modern England).

The focus of this article, in Andreadis’s words is “a class of women and behaviors described by their contemporaries in ways that coincide with our modern ‘lesbian’.” There is still much uncertainty within that description as to how these women and their society understood these concepts, and Andreadis’s thesis is that as such behaviors begin to be framed in public discourse as transgressive, women who engaged in the same behaviors but wished to be viewed as “respectable” developed a coded language to express sexual feelings in the language of female friendship – a shift that Andreadis labe

When one of my summaries is basically a list of contents, either it means that the publication is really thin on relevant content, or it means that it’s so rich that you simply need to buy the book and put it in a cherished place on your shelf. This one is the latter. At least half the contents apply to women’s experiences (although it’s still true that the male-authored female-relevant content far outnumbers the female-authored male-relevant content) and the collection includes many of the oft-cited texts from the covered period. Far from all, but an excellent place to start.

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