Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

Social space in the writings of early modern women

Malay, Jessica L. (2003) Social space in the writings of early modern women. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94501) (KAR id:94501)


Henri Lefebvre in his work, The Production of Space describes “representational space” as being “alive. It speaks... It embraces the loci of passion, of action and of lived situations.” Manuel Castells reiterates this view of spatiality when he argues, “Space is not a reflection of society, it is society.” This work explores the way in which the texts of five early modem women insert into the dynamics of spatial production alternative constructions and possibilities. Aemilia Lanyer accesses the discourse of the country house, inserting alternatives to authoritarian cultural constructs in her poem “The Description of Cooke-ham.” Isabella Whitney draws upon discourses of the city to create both a celebration and a complaint of her experience of London. Her poem, “The Maner of her Wyll & What She Left To London...” uses a variety of rhetorical strategies to represent the social spaces of the city and the place of the individual within it. The diary of Margaret Hoby reveals another kind of relationship to social space. This diary is explored using the concepts of body-ballet and time/space routine. What is revealed is Hoby’s subjective representation of a personal geography. The elegiac poetry of Elizabeth Russell is inscribed in the sacred spaces of the culture, on the monuments of her husband and children.

Through this spatial act Russell sought to mediate the damage death wrought upon her and her “house” or family. Her poetry also serves as a vehicle through which she performs her construction of self-identity. Jane Seager, in her gift book to Queen Elizabeth, seeks to appropriate deities of space, the sibyls, in order to enter imaginatively into the social spaces of the Queen. In this way she seeks to secure some form of agency. The writing of each of these women draws upon what Lefebvre terms representational space, as a means to explore the spatiality of their period and insert alternative constructions into a spatial dialogue that was increasingly focused on conceptual spaces of emerging mathematical processes, cartographic imaging and methods for the measurement and traversing of space.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94501
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN441 Literary History
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2023 13:15 UTC
Last Modified: 21 Nov 2023 14:16 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.