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This review is taken from PN Review 65, Volume 15 Number 3, January - February 1989.

DID WOMEN HAVE A RENAISSANCE? Stevie Davies, The Idea of Woman in Renaissance Literature. The Feminine Reclaimed (Harvester) £28.50
Jonathan Goldberg, Voice Terminal Echo. Postmodernism and English Renaissance Texts (Methuen) £7.95 pb.
Margaret W. Ferguson, Maureen Quilligan and Nancy J. Vickers, Rewriting the Renaissance. The Discourses of Sexual Difference in Early Modern Europe, in series Women in Culture and Society, ed. Catherine R. Stimpson (University of Chicago Press) £39.95, £12.75 pb.
 
For some time now, historians seem to have been finding the term 'Renaissance' uncomfortable. Hesitating a little, they have taken refuge under the banner of either 'the late middle ages' or 'early modern Europe'. They have tried to shrug off the stultifying view of the Renaissance which saw in it the Origins of Individualism, or the Birth of Modern Man. So when feminist historian Joan Kelly Gadol asked 'Did Women have a Renaissance?', suggesting that women's history may necessitate a different periodisation from traditional, male history, her question could resonate with many 'Renaissance' historians as well as with feminists. Historians who would not describe themselves as feminist were pleased to jettison a concept which made little sense of the lives of most fourteenth and fifteenth century Europeans.

But, as the boldly designed blue cover of the collection Rewriting the Renaissance proclaims, the Renaissance is back - and with no apologies - as a central subject in European cultural history. Indeed, it figures in the titles of all three books. Only now its location has wandered a little: it refers chiefly to sixteenth and seventeenth century English writing, though it can include sixteenth century France, and Italy and Germany between 1500 and 1700.

Feminism - or at least an engagement with phallocentrism - has been central to this reclaiming of the Renaissance, as each of these three books in their different ways testify. Stevie Davies seeks to recover 'the feminine' in sixteenth/seventeenth century literature, exploring female ...


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