The Patriarch's Wife: Literary Evidence and the History of the Family

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Contemporary historians have commonly viewed the family of the past as rigidly authoritarian, with power resting in the man of the house. In her innovative revisionist study Margaret Ezell examines this modern model of domestic patriarchalism in seventeenth-century England and finds it oversimplified and misleading.Ezell questions whether the literary evidence presently used to reconstruct the lives of seventeenth-century women-- diaries, plays, poems, and treatises on domestic piety--accurately reflects the period. Investigating alternative forms of intellectual exchange, such as manuscript circulation and correspondence networks among women, she discovers articulate women who did not wear their oppression lightly. Included here are previously unpublished manuscripts by seventeenth-century women writers as well as an appendix of three manuscripts on the status of women by Sir Robert Filmer, Mary More, and Robert Whitehall. This book makes a major contribution to the social and cultural history of women and the family and to the study of literature as historical artifact.