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Friendship's Shadows

Women's Friendship and the Politics of Betrayal in England, 1640-1705

Penelope Anderson

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P>Penelope Anderson's original study changes our understanding both of the masculine Renaissance friendship tradition and of the private forms of women's friendship of the eighteenth century and after. It uncovers the latent threat of betrayal lurking within politicized classical and humanist friendship, showing its surprising resilience as a model for political obligation undone and remade. Incorporating authors from Cicero to Abraham Cowley and Margaret Cavendish to Mary Astell, the book focuses on two extraordinary women writers, the royalist Katherine Philips and the republican Lucy Hutchinson. And it explores the ways in which they appropriate the friendship tradition in order to address problems of conflicting allegiances in the English Civil Wars and Restoration. As Penelope Anderson suggests, their writings on friendship provide a new account of women's relation to public life, organized through textual exchange rather than bodily reproduction.

Key Features

  • Studies early modern women's friendship in depth for the first time
  • Offers an account of the classical and humanist discourse of friendship by revealing the centrality of betrayal to the Aristotelian, Ciceronian, and Epicurean traditions
  • Intervenes within recent feminist and queer theory by showing textual friendship to be an alternative account of women's relation to public life
  • Articulates the links between women's literary writing and political theories such as contract theory, natural sociability, and patriarchalism
  • Contributes to the growing interest in early modern women's writing, drawing on extensive archival materials and texts

About the Author

Penelope Anderson is Assistant Professor of English at Indiana University, Bloomington. Her publications include writings on women’s friendship in /Literature Compass/ and in /Discourses and Representations of Friendship in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1700/ (Ashgate, 2011).


'Friendship’s Shadows, particularly in its careful attention to the ‘rewritings’ of female tradition in Part Two, begins the necessary and still incomplete task of recovering women’s contributions to our political and cultural heritage.'
- Lara Dodds, Mississippi State University, Review of English Studies
'Smart, thoughtful, and filled with myriad insights into how complex and contradictory allegiances can be promoted and sabotaged at one and the same moment.'
- Megan Matchinske University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal

Friendship’s Shadows opens up new avenues for understanding both the civic and intimate lives of early modern persons, as well as the cultural formations that undergird our own postmodern discourses of the relative inconsequence of female friendship vis à vis marriage.

- Professor Harriette Andreadis, Texas A&M University
This deeply researched, important book highlights further neglected subtleties of early modern women’s writing.
- JOHANNA HARRIS, University of Exeter, Renaissance Quarterly, 68.4

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