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Writing Rape, Writing Women in Early Modern England Unbridled Speech by Jocelyn Catty

Writing Rape, Writing Women in Early Modern England Unbridled Speech

Part of the Early Modern Literature in History Series


Writing Rape, Writing Women in Early Modern England Unbridled Speech by Jocelyn Catty

The word 'rape' today denotes sexual appropriation; yet it originally signified the theft of a woman from her father or husband by abduction or elopement. In the early modern period, its meaning is in transition between these two senses, while rapes and attempted rapes proliferate in literature. This age also sees the emergence of the woman writer, despite a sexual ideology which equates women's writing with promiscuity. Classical myths, however, associate women's story-telling with resistance to rape. This comprehensive study of rape and representation considers a wide range of texts drawn from prose fiction, poetry and drama by male and female writers, both canonical and non-canonical. Combining close attention to detail with an overview of the period, it demonstrates how the representation of gender-relations has exploited the subject of rape, and uses its understanding of this phenomenon to illuminate the issues of sexual and discursive autonomy which figure largely in women's texts of the period.


One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles, 1998-2002

'[A] careful, wide-ranging, often brilliant study that lays the groundwork for all future scholarship in this area. Highly recommended.

- Patrick Cullen, CUNY Graduate Centre& College of Staten Island, USA

'a pioneering study of early modern rape, that ranges broadly across literary genres and period discourses'.

- Angela Balla, Women's Studies

'Writing Rape, Writing Women is widely recognised as among the most original and nuanced accounts of sexual violence in early modern literature. Jocelyn Catty illuminates the connections between the sexual subjection of women, the construction of female subjectivity in writing, and women's literary agency. More relevant and thought-provoking than ever in its explorations of the meanings of rape, this updated edition is essential reading on women and writing in the early modern period.

- Dr Helen Hackett, Reader in English, University College London, UK

'[an] erudite and fascinating study [which] demonstrates that 'rape
was a deeply ambiguous term in early modern society

- Carolyn D Williams, Modern Language Review

'Jocelyn Catty sharpens previous portrayals of female agency by illustrating how rape narratives both restrain and enable women's voices, whether they are those of female characters or of women authors themselves. [ ] Catty maintains the useful tension between treating rape as an event of sexual violence against women and exploiting rape as a condition for the license and circumscription of female utterance'.

- Angela Balla, Women's Studies

'Associating rape with issues of autonomy and self-expression, Writing Rape traces its disturbing relationship to courtships and its engagement with cultural attitudes to female desire. Not the least of the many strengths of this study is its productive juxtapositions of canonical texts such as the two Arcadias and The Faerie Queene with less well-known and archival works.

- Heather Dubrow, Studies in English Literature

'the precision manifest in her nuanced discussion of the concept of ravishment, the judiciousness apparent in her willingness to qualify her generalizations about issues of power and agency

- Heather Dubrow, Studies in English Literature

'By combining her study of women's writing about rape with that of men, Catty does much more than offer a simple comparison between the two, she also shows how female writers were able to use the image of rape and its attendant interpretations and stories as a powerful way of justifying their own writing'.

- Jacqueline Eales, Literature and History

'Jocelyn Catty's pioneering and wide-ranging discussion of rape in early modern England deserves attention for its fresh reading of material in early romances, poetic genres, and dramas by many sixteenth and seventeenth-century men and women. [ ] A major strength of the study is Catty's examination of the relationship of rape to female silence as well as to female discourse. [ ] Catty's breadth of vision and the depth of her close textual and mythological readings are extraordinary'.

- Margaret J. Arnold, Renaissance Quarterly

About the Author

Jocelyn Catty is currently engaged in freelance research in London.

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Book Info

Publication date

30th September 1999


Jocelyn Catty

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Palgrave Macmillan


284 pages


Literary studies: c 1500 to c 1800



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