MADAME MEDIATOR: WOMEN WRITERS OF 17TH CENTURY ATLANTICISM.
Abstract: Beginning with Madam Mediator, Margaret Cavendish's liminal
character in her closet drama The Convent of Pleasure, this study examines the mediation
between complicity and subversion required of women writers seeking access to publication
and circulation in the late seventeenth century. Contemporaries Aphra Behn and Maria
Sibylla Merian emerge as skilled mediators navigating not only... read morecomplicity and subversion,
but also the Atlantic itself during missions to European colonies in Surinam where few men
with far more resources dared venture. After profound cross-cultural encounters, they
produced writing that conformed sufficiently to gain wide audiences, but that also archived
subversive responses to imperial racism and sexism for subsequent women writers to recover.
One such writer, Beryl Gilroy, born in Guyana the 1920's, recovers mediated subversions
like those in Behn's and Merian's works as what Raymond Williams calls "structures of
feeling" awaiting incorporation into hegemonic culture. Using her Atlanticist position to
difuse her subaltern status, Gilroy transforms archived structures of feeling in the works
of 17th century women writers into fully voiced tropicopolitan blasts at the foundations of
empire. In the process, Gilroy models what Laura Brown calls radical contemporeneity, but
Gilroy does it across cultures as well as time, drawing out of the enocunters among
structures of feeling about race and sex "quantum leaps" of imagination, as Adrienne Rich
calls them, that "spark like a dialectic," as Audre Lorde asserts, from which 21st century
writers can begin to forumlate visions of human interaction without racist and sexist
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2011.
Submitted to the Dept. of English.
Advisor: Carol Flynn.
Committee: Kevin Dunn, Modhumita Roy, and Elizabeth Kowaleski-Wallace.
Keywords: Literature, Women's Studies, and Caribbean Studies.read less