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Reviewed by:
  • Gender and Early Modern Constructions of Childhood ed. by Naomi J. Miller and Naomi Yavneh
  • Frank Swannack
Miller, Naomi J. and Naomi Yavneh, eds, Gender and Early Modern Constructions of Childhood (Women and Gender in the Early Modern World), Farnham, Ashgate, 2011; hardback; pp. 264; 26 b/w illustrations; R.R.P. £55.00; ISBN 9781409429975.

Editors Naomi J. Miller and Naomi Yavneh introduce their essay collection by challenging the myth that early modern parents did not love their children. Evidence found in books from the period describe children as a 'precious commodity' (p. 4). However, rather than viewing children as objects, Miller and Yavneh's interests lie 'in considering children as subjects with lived experience that is gendered' (p. 7). The essays they have chosen are interdisciplinary and are categorized by the 'central themes of loss and celebration, education and social training, growing up, and growing old' (p. 7). The editors are keen to stipulate that through early modern art, history, and literature the experiences of children also give a profound insight into understanding adults.

Part I consists of four essays beginning with Patricia Phillippy's striking examination of childhood death through plaques and effigies. She analyses the texts reflecting on a child's life and the importance of where the monuments were originally displayed. The energy and emotion invested in these funeral ornaments emphasize how highly early modern parents thought of their children. [End Page 285]

Carole Levin's contribution analyses Thomas Hill's The Pleasant Art of the Interpretation of Dreams (1576). In particular, she describes from the book parents' dreams about their children and vice versa. Following Levin, Yavneh's fascinating essay investigates the implications of why the Venetian artist Paolo Veronese painted numerous versions of the 'Finding of Moses' (c. 1580). She argues that the biblical story of a child abandoned by a riverside and its consequent upbringing in Egypt has correlations with Venice. The Italian city prided itself with looking after abandoned babies. In the first part's final offering, Katherine R. Larson reconstructs the games played by girls, a difficult task because such play was mainly reserved for boys. In an engrossing and varied exploration, Larson discovers that gender boundaries were often crossed as girls played boys' games.

Part II begins with Marie Rutkoski's discussion of French paediatrics. She examines François Rabelais's Gargantua and Pantagruel, Michel de Montaigne's 'Of a Monstrous Child', and Ambrose Paré's Oeuvres for representations of childhood development. Her analysis of Rabelais's mocking of early modern childcare practices is of particular note.

Jane Couchman examines Louise de Coligny's letters to observe the relationships she had with children she looked after. Her absorbing essay uncovers how Louise brought up children lovingly and as strict Christians. In a similar essay to Couchman's, Sara Mendelson examines the letters of Anne Dormer, an aristocratic English woman, whose life is dominated by her abusive, patriarchal husband, Robert Dormer. Curiously, their son Jack is a difficult child. Anne's family believe he has inherited his father's 'undesirable traits' (p. 121). From her case study, Mendelson concludes that children are not viewed as individuals, but as their parents' possessions.

Kathryn M. Moncrief examines Miranda's tutelage by Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest. She investigates whether staging a daughter's schooling affects the widespread household practice. Her essay effortlessly compares Miranda's education to early modern texts on childhood schooling. Caroline Bicks discovers English girls performing on an early modern stage at Mary Ward's convent schools. Bicks also investigates Ward's own childhood to understand how her performing girls might uplift a Catholic audience.

Carole Collier Frick begins Part III by analysing codpieces in sixteenth-century Europe. In a thought-provoking and entertaining essay, she challenges the argument that young boys were masculinized by codpieces. In contrast to Frick, Diane Purkiss explores Andrew Marvell's poetry for representations of girlhood. She argues convincingly that, for Marvell, a female infant represents a pastoral world of innocence away from the masculine world of war and politics. [End Page 286]

Emilie L. Bergmann finds allegories of childhood in Cervantes's work. She finds in his childhood characters heroism...


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pp. 285-287
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