Early modern women’s poetry – its textuality, style, and materiality – tends to be read according to two prevailing critical paradigms. First, because women wrote extensively in manuscript, a good deal of important scholarship emphasizes revision, augmentation, and the malleability of women’s manuscript texts. At the same time, however, print editions are celebrated as “firsts,” landmarks in the relationship between women and commercial literary culture, with a sense that print publication bestows on women’s texts new qualities of posterity, stability and fixity. This article reinterrogates these paradigms of malleability in manuscript and fixity in print. It suggests that critical and editorial engagement with the complex print histories of male authors has not translated into similar interrogation of women’s print histories, precisely because the field has tended either to reclaim manuscript as a fertile zone of women’s scribal publication or to valorize print as a breakthrough into public female authorship. Focusing on the variant print editions of poetry by Katherine Philips, Anne Bradstreet, and Margaret Cavendish, this article reveals a complex contingency to women’s printed poetic texts and, in doing so, reassesses women poets’ relationship to seventeenth-century print culture.
|HUNTINGTON LIBRARY QUARTERLY
|Accepted/In press - 30 May 2020