Hi Kyung Moon, "Authorship, Authority, and the Polemics of
Rachel Speght and the Wife of Bath"
of Bath and Rachel Speght are both women who spoke out against misogyny in the
querelle des femmes. Although the former was a fictional creation of a male
author and the latter a historical woman, they had this in common: they both
understood the power of language and that controlling it could be empowering. In
her refutation of a contemporary attack on women by Joseph Swetnam, Speght draws
up her line of defense on two fronts: illiteracy and irreligion, which she sees
as being mutually connected. She exposes in A Mouzell for Melastomus how
Swetnam’s stylistic inadequacies and lack of command over language are
symptomatic of his moral, intellectual, and spiritual inferiority. In contrast,
by showing her knowledge of the Bible and classical authors, and of rhetoric and
an ability to argue logically, she shows herself to be intellectually and
morally superior to Swetnam, whom she reduces to being a brute. Through such
strategies, she creates an authorial presence that justifies female authorship
in a manner that could serve as a model for succeeding generations of women
writers in the early modern period.
des femmes, misogyny, Wife of Bath, illiteracy, Swetnam.