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The absent body: representations of dying early modern women in a selection of seventeenth-century diaries

Becker, L. (2001) The absent body: representations of dying early modern women in a selection of seventeenth-century diaries. Women's Writing, 8 (2). pp. 251-262. ISSN 1747-5848

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/09699080100200132

Abstract/Summary

This article seeks to explore the absence of the body in the depiction of dying women in a selection of seventeenth-century diaries. It considers the cultural forces that made this absence inevitable, and the means by which the physical body was replaced in death by a spiritual presence. The elevation of a dying woman from physical carer to spiritual nurturer in the days before death ensured that gender codes were not broken. The centrality of the body of the dying woman, within a female circle of care and support, was paradoxically juxtaposed with an effacement of the body in descriptions of a good death. In death, a woman might achieve the stillness, silence and compliance so essential to perfect early modern womanhood, and retrospective diary entries can achieve this ideal by replacing the body with images that deflect from the essential physicality of the woman.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Literature
ID Code:37019
Publisher:Routledge

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