Dido's Daughters: Literacy, Gender, and Empire in Early Modern England and France

Front Cover
University of Chicago Press, Nov 1, 2007 - Social Science - 520 pages
Winner of the 2004 Book Award from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women and the 2003 Roland H. Bainton Prize for Literature from the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference.

Our common definition of literacy is the ability to read and write in one language. But as Margaret Ferguson reveals in Dido's Daughters, this description is inadequate, because it fails to help us understand heated conflicts over literacy during the emergence of print culture. The fifteenth through seventeenth centuries, she shows, were a contentious era of transition from Latin and other clerical modes of literacy toward more vernacular forms of speech and writing.

Fegurson's aim in this long-awaited work is twofold: to show that what counted as more valuable among these competing literacies had much to do with notions of gender, and to demonstrate how debates about female literacy were critical to the emergence of imperial nations. Looking at writers whom she dubs the figurative daughters of the mythological figure Dido—builder of an empire that threatened to rival Rome—Ferguson traces debates about literacy and empire in the works of Marguerite de Navarre, Christine de Pizan, Elizabeth Cary, and Aphra Behn, as well as male writers such as Shakespeare, Rabelais, and Wyatt. The result is a study that sheds new light on the crucial roles that gender and women played in the modernization of England and France.

From inside the book

Contents

Prologue
1
Part 1 Theoretical and Historical Considerations
29
Part 2 Literacy in Action and in Fantasy Case Studies
171
Afterword
375
Notes
379
Select Bibliography
435
Index
485
Copyright

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 203 - The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it : for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon ; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.
Page 17 - You thought, miss! I don't know any business you have to think at all — thought does not become a young woman. But the point we would request of you is, that you will promise to forget this fellow — to illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory.
Page 158 - Like to the senators of the antique Rome, With the plebeians swarming at their heels, Go forth and fetch their conquering Caesar in : As, by a lower but loving likelihood, Were now the general of our gracious empress, As in good time he may, from Ireland coming, Bringing rebellion broached on his sword, How many would the peaceful city quit, To welcome him ! much more, and much more cause, Did they this Harry.
Page 60 - DIGLOSSIA is a relatively stable language situation in which, in addition to the primary dialects of the language (which may include a standard or regional standards), there is a very divergent, highly codified (often grammatically more complex) superposed variety, the vehicle of a large and respected body of written literature...
Page 215 - Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
Page 49 - If writing is no longer understood in the narrow sense of linear and phonetic notation, it should be possible to say that all societies capable of producing, that is to say of obliterating, their proper names, and of bringing classificatory difference into play, practice writing in general. No reality or concept would therefore correspond to the expression "society without writing.
Page 122 - Who so list to hount, I knowe where is an hynde, But as for me, helas, I may no more: The vayne travaill hath weried me so sore. I ame of theim that farthest cometh behinde. Yet may I by no meanes my weried mynde Drawe from the Diere: but as she fleeth afore, Faynting I folowe.
Page 309 - What God hath conjoined then, let no man separate. I am the husband, and all the whole isle is my lawful wife ; I am the head and it is my body...
Page 50 - We have no language - no syntax and no lexicon - which is foreign to this history; we can pronounce not a single destructive proposition which has not already had to slip into the form, the logic, and the implicit postulations of precisely what it seeks to contest.
Page 135 - And who, in time, knows whither we may vent The treasure of our tongue, to what strange shores This gain of our best glory shall be sent, T' enrich unknowing nations with our stores?

About the author (2007)

Margaret W. Ferguson is a professor of English and comparative literature at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of Trials of Desire: Renaissance Defenses of Poetry and coeditor of a number of books, most recently The Norton Anthology of Poetry, fourth edition.

Bibliographic information