Gendering Privacy: Overheard Laments in Early Modern English Literature


ACLS Fellowship Program




This study explores the overheard lament, a trope articulating the concept of privacy and creating new modes of female authorship in the first two centuries of print. By focusing on the overheard lament as it appears in many kinds of texts, I reveal how the theme of women’s privacy helped to shape several genres. Using texts including devotional poetry, ballads, drama, and prose fiction, I examine models of women's privacy and authorship from Anne Lock to Aphra Behn (1560-1684), including the work of Philip Sidney, Mary Sidney Herbert, Shakespeare, and Mary Wroth, among others. Concepts of women's authorship and women’s privacy evolve and respond to specific contexts: Protestant ritual, domestic service, marriage, and the marketplace.