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“poetticall raptures, and fixions”: Mary Wroth’s Negotiation of Early Modern Poetics and Ovid in the Urania

Rahel Orgis

Pages 181 - 199



This publication is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives 4.0.

In the manuscript continuation of Mary Wroth’s The Countess of Montgomery’s Urania, the character Antissia goes mad writing inappropriate poetry because an overly ambitious scholar of Ovid supposedly leads her to dabble with literature that is beyond women’s mental capacity. This instance of explicit critique of a female author in the first English romance authored by a woman has continued to trouble critics. My analysis of the episode proposes an alternative approach to the scathing critique on Antissia’s writing by instead reading it as an intervention in the contemporary discourse of poetics. Rather than criticising female authorship, I argue, Wroth questions the proper place of writing in relation to social duties, reflects on poetic invention and craftsmanship and on how to engage with canonical precursors and models. By exposing the authorship practices of Antissia and her tutor and their uncritical emulation of canonical male texts, Wroth valorises her own reworking of two tales from Ovid’s Metamorphoses and indirectly outlines an ideal female or male writer in the tradition of Aristotle and Philip Sidney.

Keywords: authorship practices, female authorship, early modern poetics, Ovid, Wroth


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