CFP: Reconsidering Early Modern Women’s Chastity, Silence, and Obedience (9/15/07; NEMLA 4/10-13/2008)

by Jessica C. Murphy

Twenty-five years after the publication of Suzanne Hull’s influential book, Chaste, Silent, and Obedient: English Books for Women, 1475-1640, this panel proposes to interrogate the critical legacy of this triad of early modern feminine virtues. In the burgeoning field of early modern gender studies, this three-part summary of patriarchal oppression has become a critical byword, and many critics have argued that each of the three terms were ideologically interchangeable.

But were these three virtues stable categories? Were they as universally accepted as early modern conduct writers (and many modern critics) would have us believe? How is chastity more than a simple absence? What epistemological and representational challenges did early modern writers face when trying to describe its “absent presence?” Similarly, can the verbal absence of silence “speak” or signify in uniquely gendered ways? Does it ever communicate *un*chastity and *dis*obedience as Christina Luckyj argues in her recent book? Is female obedience ever not passive? Do women writers or female characters ever define nontraditional authorities to obey? Did silence, chastity, and obedience affect women’s identity differently depending on class? Were these virtues represented differently depending on the genre of a work or the century in which it was written?

This panel invites papers that investigate literary and cultural negotiations of any or all of these virtues by women writers or in representations of female characters before 1800.

Please email 250 word abstracts to Jessica C. Murphy at by September 15, 2007.

The conference is Northeast MLA in Buffalo, NY April 10-13, 2008.
Please see for more information.