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The Copy of a Letter: Transgressing Stereotypes

By: Ruchita Chatterji and Monami Goswami

To understand the position of Isabella Whitney as a woman poet during the English Renaissance, one must take cognizance of the historical and social context of her times. Whitney published at a time when writing was considered solely a man’s prerogative, an unacceptable act for a woman. While the Renaissance brought new learning and enlightenment to the men of England, the women, contained by societal norms, were deprived of the chance to participate fully in this intellectual movement. Given the social position accorded to women during the Renaissance, vis-à-vis the advancement that was sweeping the continent at large, this general notion of a renewal of culture, education, and the arts, which we have come to associate with the term ’Renaissance’ must be reconsidered. It is crucial to investigate whether, and to what extent, this movement was experienced by the women of the age. Only by reflecting upon this question, can one begin to truly gauge the actual significance of the works penned by women at the time.

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