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Heresy Trials and English Women Writers, 1400–1670


  • Date Published: March 2015
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107507593

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About the Authors
  • This book charts the emergence of women's writing from the procedures of heresy trials and recovers a tradition of women's trial narratives from the late Middle Ages to the seventeenth century. Analyzing the interrogations of Margery Kempe, Anne Askew, Marian Protestant women, Margaret Clitherow and Quakers Katherine Evans and Sarah Cheevers, the book examines the complex dynamics of women's writing, preaching and authorship under religious persecution and censorship. Archival sources illuminate not only the literary choices women made, showing how they wrote to justify their teaching even when their authority was questioned, but also their complex relationship with male interrogators. Women's speech was paradoxically encouraged and constrained, and male editors preserved their writing while shaping it to their own interests. This book challenges conventional distinctions between historical and literary forms while identifying a new tradition of women's writing across Catholic, Protestant and Sectarian communities and the medieval/early modern divide.

    • Offers the first full-length study of the writings of women on trial for heresy
    • Reveals unexpected connections between women's responses to charges of heresy over an extensive time span, from Margery Kempe in the Middle Ages to Quaker women in the seventeenth century
    • Shows how women's writing was encouraged and constrained by male interrogators and editors
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Gertz beautifully illuminates the literary qualities of Askew's writing … Heresy Trials and English Women Writers, 1400–1670 is a stimulating and interesting book.' Journal of the Northern Renaissance

    'Heresy Trials and English Women Writers, 1400–1670 is a compelling account of heresy trials, and a valuable addition to current scholarship on trial narratives, the history of women's preaching, women's autobiographical writing and biographical writings of women.' Nora King, The History of Women Religious of Britain and Ireland

    'A learned, crisply written book … Gertz offers a nuanced map of how belief and resistance helped to generate writing.' Renaissance Quarterly

    'Gertz's book succeeds in its stated goal: to recover a history of women's preaching before the seventeenth century. More importantly, perhaps, she also makes an argument for reading women's preaching and religious writing cross-confessionallyand comparatively.' Courtney E. Rydel, Recusant History

    'All of the case studies are full of rich detail and carefully researched contextual information that are impossible to capture in a short review. Specialists interested in early women writers, women and religion, heresy, trial narratives, biography, and autobiography will find much to learn from and to inspire them … The [book has a] bold thesis, impressive scholarship, and ambitious chronology.' Tim Stretton, Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2015
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107507593
    • length: 270 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 150 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.4kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: articulating women
    1. 'Belief papers and the literary genres of heresy trial'
    2. 'Confessing Margery Kempe, 1413–38'
    3. 'Recanting and rewriting Anne Askew, 1540–6'
    4. 'Sanctifying ploughmans' daughters and butchers' wives: the interrogations of Alice Driver, Elizabeth Young, Agnes Prest and Margaret Clitherow, 1555–86'
    5. 'Exporting inquisition: Katherine Evans and Sarah Cheevers at Malta, 1659–63'
    Conclusion: visionaries, non-conformists and the history of women's trial writing.

  • Author

    Genelle Gertz, Washington and Lee University, Virginia
    Genelle Gertz is Associate Professor of English at Washington and Lee University, Virginia and teaches courses on medieval and early modern literature.

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