In the Renaissance, confession emerges as a powerful vehicle for social change and resistance to patriarchy. Specifically, Renaissance writers use the rhetorical qualities of confession to challenge dominant ecclesiastical and juridical social structures that rely on its ostensible truth-telling qualities to enforce discipline. For despite the persistent myth that confession is a pure conduit to the truth of one's identity, it is in fact a speech act subject to the vicissitudes of rhetoric and interpretation. Subversive uses of confessional rhetoric prove particularly useful for women, giving new meaning to the gendered Early Modern metaphor for confession, qthe queen of proofs.q One example of social resistance through confessional rhetoric is provided by Anne Askew, who wrote a confessional account of her interrogation and conviction for refusing to acknowledge the Eucharist. Askew shows a remarkable facility with rhetorical language and its social uses. However, her use of evasive and tropological language to escape conviction rebounds upon her, and makes her consistent self-identification as both a Christian and a woman impossible. Askew's inability to occupy a single identity category---or even multiple convergent identity categories---allows her a measure of resistance to the disciplinary discourses of church and state, but it also shows the potential dangers of rhetorical language for confessants and even for confession itself. Renaissance drama provides other examples of resistance through confessional rhetoric. Works by Shakespeare, Webster, Ford, Fletcher and other dramatists show the persistence of the myth of the true and holistic confession, but also show an increasing social willingness to interrogate it. Some plays present this bifurcated attitude towards confession by exploiting the ritual's inherently dramatic and narrative forms, some by calling into question the historicity of recorded confessions, some by disarticulating the confessional rite into its component parts in order to destabilize it, and some by offering a direct indictment of the patriarchal tendency to ignore the confessions of ostensibly powerless women. All the works I examine are united, however, in using confession to offer alternative ways of articulating and enacting the Early Modern subject.All the works I examine are united, however, in using confession to offer alternative ways of articulating and enacting the Early Modern subject.
|Title||:||The Queen of Proofs: Subjectivity, Gender, and Confession in Early Modern England|
|Author||:||Anthony Wayne Lilly (II.)|
|Publisher||:||ProQuest - 2007|