Heresy Trials and English Women Writers, 1400-1670

Book cover: Heresy Trials and English Women Writers, 1400-1670
Genelle Gertz
July 01, 2012

This book charts the emergence of women's writing from the procedures of heresy trials and recovers a tradition of women's trial narratives from the late Middle Ages to the seventeenth century. Analyzing the interrogations of Margery Kempe, Anne Askew, Marian Protestant women, Margaret Clitherow, and Quakers Katherine Evans and Sarah Cheevers, the book examines the complex dynamics of women's writing, preaching, and authorship under separate regimes of religious persecution and censorship. Archival sources illuminate the literary choices women made, showing how they wrote to justify their teaching even when male co-religionists would not have accepted their authority. Interrogators paradoxically encouraged and constrained women's speech; correspondingly, male editors preserved women's writing while shaping it to their own interests. This book challenges conventional distinctions between historical and literary forms while identifying a new tradition of women's writing across Catholic, Protestant and Sectarian communities and the medieval/early modern divide.

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