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Title: "Authoris'd by her grandam'" : old wives' tales and the female storyteller in early modern English drama
Author: Drury, Leslie
ISNI:       0000 0004 5361 505X
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis addresses the representation of old wives' tales and the female storyteller in early modern English literature, with a focus on particular works of drama between 1590-1615. Drawing upon the debased cultural status of female storytellers and their tales, the texts under discussion in this thesis utilise their relationship to feminine tales to express their own engagements with issues both social and artistic: in their relationship to social distinction, to fiction-making, and to authorship. The first chapter investigates the generic associations of tale-telling as represented in literature, focusing on the key physical and social contexts invoked. An analysis of George Peele's The Old Wives' Tale focuses upon the play's central affiliation with oral forms in its representation of the social, thematic, structural setting of its tale-telling frame and inner-play. The chapter posits a social model of distinction in which old wives' tales are part of a larger category of popular pastimes and points toward broader dramatic engagement with the debased nostalgia associated with these pastimes. The second chapter considers the common association between women's tales and childhood, but diverts from the general critical focus on the subjectivity of former children and instead explores the adult patriarch's anxieties elicited around women's vocal sociability and their implied effect upon paternity through the female social dominance during childbirth. In this context, William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale is fundamentally shaped by the extended birthing ritual of early modern England through its tale-like narrative structure. In doing so, the play engages with women's vocal role both in creating fiction and confirming paternity and women's denigrated social and artistic authority is shown to affirm the transformative power of tales as drama. The third chapter inspects an image of female tale-telling in garrulous alewives in the popular tradition. Examining representations of the bawdy and bodily excess of the jesting alewife and the repellent conviviality of the alehouse community, this chapter scrutinizes the ensuing implications for both authorial production and literary consumption. Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair is explored through Jonson's usage of the female victualler, Ursula the pig-woman, to engage with an ambivalent message of debasement as the common condition and the communal participation in morally relativistic modes of consumption.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Scottish Overseas Research Awards Scheme ; University of Aberdeen ; College of Arts and Social Sciences
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Women storytellers