This introductory chapter argues that kinship metaphors were an organizing principle of literary history. Through analogies drawn between literary transmission and the inheritance of land, the national literary tradition was understood as a patrilineage. Both Christian tradition, with its understanding of God's creative power as the paradigm for human fatherhood and creativity, and Aristotelian reproductive theory, with its emphasis on the primacy and spirituality of the male reproductive role, influenced prevailing beliefs that the transmission of artistic creativity was a male prerogative. While individual women writers might be honoured, literary inheritance was understood as symbolically male. At the same time, real-life kinship relations between writers complicated myths of literary transmission and inheritance. The emergent literary canon was predominantly masculine and symbolically male, but women maintained a shifting and unsettling place within it.
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