Beginning with Henry VIII's attempts to divorce Anne Boleyn, the Protestant Reformation in England was from the start a reformation of gender and sexual politics. In this course we will examine the intertwining history of religious reform and "women's" issues as it emerges in English literary documents of the 16th and 17th centuries, including the rise of the nuclear family and the history of divorce, the gendered representation of religious radicals on stage, the "churching" of women, the demise of the cult of the Virgin Mary, attitudes toward birth control, female preaching and Quakerism, female monarchs and the Protestant realm, and the formation of literary/religious canons. Throughout the term we will keep before us the question of whether religion--Protestant or Catholic--helps or hinders feminist agendas. We will then turn our attention to some modern-day refractions of English Reformation sexual politics: Hollywood's fascination with Queen Elizabeth, and the debate over contraception and women's rights within the Catholic church. Our texts will represent both the canonical male perspective (e.g. Milton, Spenser,) and the view of women writers (Askew, Lanyer, Fell Fox), as well as current critical and historiographic work. Students should expect to gain a better understanding of English Reformation history and a sense of the current trends in historicist feminist criticism of early modern English literature.
One in-class presentation, one short paper, and a long seminar paper will be required. No exams.
Also see THAR 275 950: Advanced Topics in Theatre: British Feminist Theatre (Penn Summer Abroad); WSTD 405 920: Depicting the Self: Women's Autobiographical Writings