MRTS Texts for Teaching, Vol. 5

Early Modern Women on the Fall: An Anthology

Edited by Michelle M. Dowd and Thomas Festa
2012 | 386 + x pp. | 8 ills. | Paperback | 6 x 9 in | 978-0-86698-458-4 | MRTS 410
$60 | £45

This anthology presents the works of eighteen early modern Englishwomen addressing the biblical story of the Fall from the Book of Genesis. The texts, many of which are available in a modern edition for the first time, are fully annotated and introduced for use by students and researchers alike. In addition, the anthology includes supplementary materials that these writers would have known intimately, such as the marriage ceremony from The Book of Common Prayer and the account of the Fall in both the Geneva and Authorized (King James) versions, as well as a selected bibliography of scholarly works.


Award Winner!
Best Teaching Edition
—Society for the Study of Early Modern Women

Michelle M. Dowd and Thomas Festa have produced an excellent and eminently usable teaching edition with their anthology Early Modern Women on the Fall. Organized chronologically, this volume spans the seventeenth century from Amelia Lanyer’s “Salve Deus Judaeorum” (1611) to Lady Mary Chudleigh’s “The Ladie’s Defense” (1701). The thematic focus on female interpretations and revisions of scriptural accounts of the fall lends coherence to the anthology, while also allowing the editors to showcase the generic range of seventeenth century women’s writing in England, including polemical pamphlets, educational treatises, domestic manuals, private devotional poetry, and ambitious rewritings of Genesis. The work of the eighteen women represented in these pages reflects their different class positions, religious affiliations, literary temperaments, and philosophical arguments, helpfully introducing student readers to the diversity of early modern women’s writing strategies. Dowd and Festa’s introduction provides a brisk yet comprehensive overview of some of the most important political, religious, and social controversies of seventeenth-century Europe. This usefully frames these women’s works in the larger intellectual debates of the day rather representing them as the isolated products of singular biographical subjects. Neither condescending to its target audience nor defensive about its subject, this anthology’s most important contribution may well be offering students a modern edition that confidently assumes women writers as significant and eloquent contributors to early modern culture.

Table of Contents

  • Michelle M. Dowd and Thomas Festa: Introduction: Adam’s Rib, Eve’s Voice

  • Aemilia Lanyer: “To the Virtuous Reader” (1611)

  • Aemilia Lanyer: “Eve’s Apology” from Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum (1611)

  • Dorothy Leigh: Selections from The Mother’s Blessing (1616)

  • Rachel Speght: A Muzzle for Melastomus (1617)

  • Esther Sowernam: Selections from Esther Hath Hanged Haman (1617)

  • Joan Sharp: “A Defense of Women” (1617)

  • Elizabeth Clinton: The Countess of Lincoln’s Nursery (1622)

  • Lady Anne Southwell: “All Married Men Desire to Have Good Wives” (1626)

  • Lady Anne Southwell: “An Elegy Written by the Lady A.S. to the Countess of Londonderry” (1626)

  • Alice Sutcliffe: “Of Our Loss by Adam, and Our Gain by Christ” from Meditations of Man’s Mortality, Or a Way to True Blessedness (1634)

  • Margaret Cavendish: “Poets Have Most Pleasure in this Life” from Poems and Fancies (1653)

  • Katherine Philips: “To Antenor, on a Paper of Mine” from Poems (1667)

  • Mary Roper: “The Creation of Man” from The Sacred History (1669)

  • Mary Roper: “Man’s Shameful Fall” from The Sacred History (1669)

  • Dorothy Calthorpe: “A Description of the Garden of Eden” (1672-1684)

  • Bathsua Makin: An Essay to Revive the Ancient Education of Gentlewomen (1673)

  • Lucy Hutchinson: Order and Disorder, Cantos 1-5 (1679)

  • Sarah Fyge: The Female Advocate (1687)

  • Jane Barker: “A Farewell to Poetry, With a Long Digression on Anatomy” (1688)

  • Mary Astell: A Serious Proposal to the Ladies (1694)

  • Lady Mary Chudleigh: The Ladies’ Defense (1701)