Dido's Daughters: Literacy, Gender, and Empire in Early Modern England and France
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.
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allegorical Aphra Aphra Behn argued argument audience authority Bacon Behn Behn’s Boccaccio Cary Cary’s play Catholic century chap chapter Christian Christine de Pizan Cité des dames cited clerkly clerks colonial complex critical cultural debates deﬁned deﬁnition Derrida describes Dido Dido’s diﬀerent discourse discussion early modern eﬀect eﬀorts Elizabeth emergent empire England English equivocation female ﬁeld ﬁgure ﬁnd ﬁrst France French gender glish God’s Graphina Henry Heptaméron Herod heroine historical husband ideas ideological imperial king king’s language Latin linguistic literacy literate male Marguerite Marguerite de Navarre Marguerite Porete Mariam medieval and early mother narrative narrator nation Navarre Navarre’s Nicaula oﬀers oﬃcial one’s oral Oroonoko play’s political Porete’s practices Queen question readers reﬂects religious Renaissance rhetorical Roberval role Roman Salome Salome’s scholars Shakespeare’s signiﬁcant social speciﬁc speech story suggests tion tongue tradition Tragedie of Mariam translation Vergil’s vernacular wife woman women words World writing written