Re-Imagining Marginalised Tudor Voices: Working Women, Print Culture and the Rejection of Female Silence
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Though the recent work of historians has begun to reveal the rich and complex lives of working women (Hubbard, 2012, p.1), their narrative potential has mostly been ignored by writers of modern historical fiction. Working women are infrequently protagonists and when they do appear, their domesticity is emphasised; those Tudor women who traversed the gender divide to attain employment in male-dominated fields are almost entirely marginalised. This project seeks to address this gap by offering a novel, Carew, that foregrounds the experiences of a working woman, the fictional Hannah Carew, whose character is inspired by the printer Elisabeth Pickering. It conceptualises how a Tudor woman might have experienced Tudor societal expectations, using the printing press to give physical form to gender boundaries. The novel also seeks to creatively consider notions of ‘history’ and how ‘histories’ are constructed and, in so doing, explore possible reasons why working women’s voices have been marginalised. The inclusion of epigraphs establish history as a contested space, while the composition of the First Examination of Anne Askew, an account of the Tudor martyr’s first trial for heresy, is used to explore how historians make use of literary techniques. The project also seeks to challenge, subvert and resist common representations of working women in historical fiction who are often subordinated by their upper-class counterparts.
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