Nature's Cruel Stepdames: Murderous Women in the Street Literature of Seventeenth Century England

Nature's Cruel Stepdames: Murderous Women in the Street Literature of Seventeenth Century England

Susan C. Staub $60.00

Published in 2004 | 366 pages | cloth | ISBN: 978-0-8207-0356-5


“Staub has done her subject justice. She is at her best when using the arsenal of female literary criticism to explore the rhetorical implications of the narratives as an expression of gender relations during this period. In Staub's Introduction we can find many intriguing insights into the early modern female voice as it manifested itself (or failed to manifest itself) in popular Literary Studies.” — CLIO

Nature's Cruel Stepdames provides an articulate and needed resource for students and scholars of the period as it invites readers to examine many of the contradictions and tensions surrounding unruly women, including anxieties about maternal power, disruptions of class structures, and interrogations into social, economic, and religious positions. For these reasons and for the ways the pamphlets challenge traditional genre divisions as well as boundaries between fiction and history, this book will complement nicely studies of canonical texts typically appearing in early modern Literary Studies courses.” — Seventeenth-Century News"

Book Information:

A unique selection of seventeenth century pamphlets revealing the popular press's obsessive concern with female violence—a violence that is almost always domestic—is presented in this book, along with a discussion of the texts' historical and cultural contexts. Modernized and annotated, these pamphlets vividly illustrate the precarious and often contradictory legal position of the early modern English woman. Because the early modern woman was so thoroughly defined by her marital status (either married or to be married), the crimes chronicled in this study—infanticide, child murder and husband murder—focus almost exclusively on women's roles as wives and mothers. Chosen both for the class and social issues they investigate and for their correspondence to the traditional stages of a woman's existence in those times (maid, wife, and widow), the pamphlets included in this study offer an invaluable resource for interrogating the domestic, economic, and legal condition of seventeenth century women.

Author Information:

SUSAN C. STAUB is professor of English at Appalachian State University where she teaches Shakespeare and Renaissance Literary Studies. Her previous publications include Mother's Advice Books, volume 3 in The Early Modern Englishwoman; A Facsimile Library of Essential Works, 1500–1750; and Printed Writings, 1641–1700.

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