3 illustrations, 1 index
Dramatic and documentary representations of aggressive and garrulous women, while often casting such women as reckless and ultimately unsuccessful usurpers of cultural authority, simultaneously highlight, in contending narrative lines, their effective manipulation and even subversion of social and gender hierarchies. Words Like Daggers explores the scolding invectives, malevolent curses, and ecstatic prophesies of early modern women as attested in legal documents, letters, self-narratives, popular pamphlets, ballads, and dramas of the era. By examining the framing and performance of such violent female speech between the 1590s and the 1660s, Kirilka Stavreva dismantles the myth of the silent and obedient women who allegedly populated early modern England.
Blending gender theory with detailed historical analysis, Words Like Daggers highlights the capacity of women’s language to shape gender and social relationships in the early modern era. Stavreva not only reconstructs the speech acts of individual contentious women but also examines the powerful performative potential of women’s violent speech, revealing how the stage, arguably the most influential cultural institution of the Renaissance, orchestrated and aestheticized women’s fighting words and, in so doing, showcased and augmented their cultural significance.
“Stavreva’s book furthers the work of many feminist scholars, contributes to women’s history, and advances our understanding of the early modern culture in its textual, sonic, and even physical manifestations.”—Anna Riehl Bertolet, author of The Face of Queenship: Early Modern Representations of Queen Elizabeth I