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The Girlhood of Shakespeare's Sisters

Gender, Transgression, Adolescence

Jennifer Higginbotham

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The first sustained study of girls and girlhood in early modern literature and culture

Jennifer Higginbotham makes a persuasive case for a paradigm shift in our current conceptions of the early modern sex-gender system. She challenges the widespread assumption that the category of the 'girl' played little or no role in the construction of gender in early modern English culture. And she demonstrates that girl characters appeared in a variety of texts, from female infants in Shakespeare's late romances to little children in Tudor interludes to adult 'roaring girls' in city comedies. This monograph provides the first book-length study of the way the literature and drama of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries constructed the category of the 'girl'.

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1. ‘A wentche, a gyrle, a Damsell’: Defining Early Modern Girlhood
2. Roaring Girls and Unruly Women: Producing Femininities
3. Female Infants and the Engendering of Humanity
4. Where are the Girls in English Renaissance Drama?
5. Voicing Girlhood: Women’s Life Writing and Narratives of Childhood
Epilogue: MassProduced Languages and the End of Touristic Choices

About the Author

Jennifer Higginbotham is Assistant Professor of English at The Ohio State University. She specialises in Shakespeare and Renaissance drama, feminist theory, and early modern women's writing, and her articles on gender and early modern literature have appeared in the journals Reformation and Modern Philology.


Remarkable … I admire the depth and breadth of Higginbotham’s argument, and the wonderful attention to sources from the worlds of medicine, theater, poetry, and pedagogy.

- Elizabeth Mazzola, CUNY, City College, Renaissance Quarterly
This is an exceptional book.
- M.Tyler Sasser, The University of Southern Mississippi, The Sixteenth Century Journal: Vol XLIV, No 4

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