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‘Good ladies be working’: singing at work in Tudor woman’s song

O'Callaghan, M. ORCID: (2019) ‘Good ladies be working’: singing at work in Tudor woman’s song. Huntington Library Quarterly, 82 (1). pp. 107-126. ISSN 1544-399X

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1353/hlq.2019.0005


“Attend thee, go play thee”, as indicated by the title it is given in the mid-Tudor ballad collection, A Handful of Pleasant Delights – “The scoffe of a Ladie, as pretie as may be, to a yong man that went a wooing” – is an example of female-voiced invective or flyting. While early modern female-voiced complaint has attracted a wealth of critical work, little attention has been paid to the female-voiced scoff. The comic scoff is pitched at a lower social register than that which conventionally characterizes the more courtly love complaint. It thereby provides evidence for a wider social range of female voices in lyric verse and song. Moreover, this scoff is especially significant because it draws much-needed attention to the status of the non-elite working woman’s voice in performance, raising questions about how working subjectivities were fashioned and deployed. Such metaphors of voice are, of course, highly mediated, and not transparent windows onto the lived experience of women or forthright expressions of agency. Yet, by attending to the complex relationship between gender, genre, voice and embodiment, it is possible to address these difficult questions of historical agency.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Early Modern Research Centre (EMRC)
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Literature
ID Code:66755
Publisher:University of Pennsylvania Press


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