Date of Award

5-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department

English

Advisor

Rivlin, Elizabeth

Committee Member

Stockton , William

Committee Member

Goss , Erin

Abstract

This thesis discusses how Aemilia Lanyer's poem Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum represents a virtual space that allows for female community among women who share similar ideals. The three main areas of investigation are the dedications that serve as a structural community for her dedicatees, Christ and his disciples' community breaking down, and Eve's thwarted community in Eden. Christ is a feminized figure in Lanyer's poem who gives women a representative in the Bible, and his interactions with his disciples are something that scholars of Lanyer's work have not discussed. Lanyer's section on Eve is often dissected for its protofeminist, or non-protofeminist, statements, but scholars have yet to view Eve's importance in Lanyer's argument for female community, which is another aim of this thesis. The community built by writing to and for women begins with the dedications. These eleven introductory poems are the most critically commented on portion of Lanyer's work. Scholars discuss Lanyer's dedications in terms of seeking patronage, but I wish to add to that argument by explaining how the dedications are also a call for equality among the high-born women she directly addresses and a general female audience. The idea of eliminating class distinction also moves into the Christ section because of the notion that all who follow Christ are made one through his sacrifice. By feminizing Christ through the language she attributes to him, Lanyer shows a female figure unable to thrive in a masculine community, and once the disciples flee, the daughters of Jerusalem rise up in an attempt to support Christ during his final hours. Like Christ, Eve is used to show the negative effects of denying women community; withholding knowledge and likeminded individuals from women forces them to seek community with men, who will ultimately betray them as Adam did to Eve. I will go into how Eve is denied community and knowledge by Adam, and how Lanyer's final poem, 'The Description of Cooke-ham,' attempts to bring women back a new Eden at Cooke-ham by providing them with knowledge to join with and thrive in Lanyer's virtual community, constructed through her text.

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