“Princely Feminine Graces”: Virtue and Power in Early Modern English and Spanish Literature
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This project analyzes the intersections between representations of female sovereignty used to promote and rethink feminine virtue in both early modern English and Spanish advice literature and literary texts published in the decade after Queen Elizabeth I’s death. I suggest that the question of women’s sovereignty prompted by the rise of ruling queens in Spain and England influences the prominence of regal women as models of feminine virtue in advice literature and reconceptualizes feminine virtue as a political discourse, forming a new category I term “princely feminine virtue.” Scholarship analyzing the relationship between advice literature and literary works has not recognized England and Spain’s shared indebtedness to princely models to advise and represent feminine virtue. By examining the interplay between feminine virtue, tropes of sovereignty, and the advisory mode in both types of texts, this project emphasizes the widespread potential for women’s exemplary virtue across the social spectrum. In addition to recasting feminine virtue through a princely lens, these texts reveal a shared vision of how performances of feminine virtue are invested with agency and power.