Adapting reproduction: portrayals of sex, birth, and bodies in four early modern women's metaphors for writing
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The metaphor for writing as reproduction was common in literature by both men and women in the early modern period. Indeed, Donald W. Foster argues that the comparison between texts and children, “is the single most frequent metaphor encountered in Renaissance book dedications” (44-5), and he goes on to claim that “the original author is always figured as the only begetter” (45) or parent (44). I will focus on ways that early modern women writers adapt the reproductive metaphor, and I seek to answer the question: since reproduction was the most frequent metaphor for print and since women’s writing was criticized because it was associated with promiscuity, how do women who print appropriate the reproductive metaphor to counter charges against their sexuality? I examine representations of bodies and sexual behaviour in moments when early modern women writers make reference to the writing process, and I find that this metaphor serves as a tool to defend their sexual behaviour, insult others’ perceived unchastity, gain an authoritative position from which to write, and question the connection between writing and reproduction. I conduct close readings of passages that discuss both writing and reproduction, and I use Eric Partridge’s Shakespeare’s Bawdy, Rebecca Bach’s Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature Before Heterosexuality, Wendy Wall’s The Imprint of Gender, and the Oxford English Dictionary as my main authorities in identifying and analyzing vocabulary that refers to both of these events.