UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The monstrosity of text : gender tensions in early modern English pamphlets, 1550 - 1650 Bailie, Krista


The advent of print and specifically the pamphlet in the sixteenth-century created a new moment for the monster, a time of religious upheaval and gender tensions in which the pamphlet emerged as a way for the literate but no longer only the wealthy and privileged to engage in public discourse. My thesis considers the use of the monster in early modern print in England, arguing that it is the reappropriation of the visual and rhetorical offerings of earlier versions of the monster which makes it a culturally convenient symbol in a time of political instability and revolution. Drawing on an extended history of the symbol of the monster, this work considers the impulse to frame behavior inside the notion of the monstrous, and the ways an imagined monster can appear out of nowhere and disrupt society. As part of a larger concern at the time around women and their conduct, the pamphlet operated as a cultural technology that could sanction, reform or deny the categories of normalcy and deviancy, a tool that simultaneously created and contained the monster. The prolific publishing of pamphlets by men in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries (namely those focusing on monstrous births, controversial fashions, political involvement and sexual deviance) evidences not only the desire to control the behaviour of women but also the ways in which women were resisting this control through retaliatory pamphleteering and publishing, petitioning and self-fashioning. By using these monstrous bodies in print, the stories and the pamphlets become part of a larger narrative of internal and external monstrousness within society. I argue that the content of these pamphlets provides historical evidence of women’s considered political engagement and agency, a disruption that invited the monster in to do the cultural work of embodying religious, political and gender tensions in revolutionary England.

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