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DANGEROUS FAMILIARS Representations of Domestic Crime in England, 1550-1700

Dolan (Frances E.)

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ISBN 10: 0801429013 / ISBN 13: 9780801429019
Published by Cornell Univ. Press, 1994
Condition: Fine Hardcover
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Hardback. In early modern England, the home could function as a locus of conflict, an arena in which the most fundamental ideas about social order, identity, and intimacy were contested. Although the contests took many forms, they emerged into public scrutiny and intervention most dramatically when they erupted into violence. The author focuses here on the most extreme, violent instances of domestic conflict. Early modern English culture recognised non-murderous domestic violence, for example, wife- and child-beating, sexual abuse, and verbal abuse, as a problem that local communities might address in ecclesiastical courts or through informal interventions, including shaming rituals. Common law, however, did not define these kinds of violence as criminal, and popular culture rarely represented actual instances of domestic violence that had no clear legal status, that is, those that did not lead to death. The author looks at those forms of domestic violence that occurred least often, but attracted most attention, and that the culture defined as felonies : acts of murder (petty treason, wife murder, infanticide) and of witchcraft. Chapter headings include : "Home-rebels and House-traitors": Petty Treason and the Murderous Wife; The Subordinate('s) Plot: Petty Treason and the Forms of Domestic Rebellion; Revolutions, Petty Tyranny, and the Murderous Husband; Finding What Has Been "Lost": Representations of Infanticide and 'The Winter's Tale'; Witchcraft and the Threat of the Familiar. Illus., Epilogue and Index. 253pp. 8vo. h/back. F. Bookseller Inventory # 17633

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Bibliographic Details

Title: DANGEROUS FAMILIARS Representations of ...

Publisher: Cornell Univ. Press

Publication Date: 1994

Binding: Hardcover / Hardback

Book Condition:Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: No Jacket

Edition: First edition.

About this title

Synopsis:

Looking back at images of violence in the popular culture of early modern England, we find that the specter of the murderer loomed most vividly not in the stranger, but in the familiar; and not in the master, husband, or father, but in the servant, wife, or mother. A gripping exploration of seventeenth-century accounts of domestic murder in fact and fiction, this book is the first to ask why.

Frances E. Dolan examines stories ranging from the profoundly disturbing to the comically macabre: of husband murder, wife murder, infanticide, and witchcraft. She surveys trial transcripts, confessions, and scaffold speeches, as well as pamphlets, ballads, popular plays based on notorious crimes, and such well-known works as The Tempest, Othello, Macbeth, and The Winter's Tale. Citing contemporary analogies between the politics of household and commonwealth, she shows how both legal and literary narratives attempt to restore the order threatened by insubordinate dependents.

From the Back Cover:

Even now in the mass media, women are often portrayed as murderers in their own homes, although in reality women are much more likely to be the victims of domestic violence than the perpetrators. Looking back at images of violence in the popular culture of early modern England, we find similar misperceptions. The specter of the murderer loomed most vividly not in the stranger, but in the familiar; and not in the master, husband, or father, but in the servant, wife, or mother. A gripping exploration of seventeenth-century accounts of domestic murder in fact and fiction, this book is the first to ask why. Frances E. Dolan examines stories ranging from the profoundly disturbing to the comically macabre: of husband murder (legally defined as "petty treason"), wife murder (or "petty tyranny"), infanticide, and witchcraft. She surveys trial transcripts, confessions, and gallows speeches, as well as pamphlets, ballads, popular plays based on notorious crimes, and such well-known works as The Tempest, Othello, Macbeth, and The Winter's Tale. Citing contemporary analogies between the politics of household and commonwealth, she shows how both legal and literary narratives attempt to restore the order threatened by insubordinate dependents. Representations of women who plot to kill their husbands, masters, children, and neighbors, she finds, articulate fears of women's sexual appetites and capacities for violence, as well as anxieties about the perils of intimacy and the instability of class and gender positions. In an epilogue, Dolan envisions literary history itself as a battle to the death among generic intimates. The novel is cast in this drama as the rebellious off-spring of pamphlet andballad, a ruthless heir that flourished through its readiness to devour its parents.

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