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Royalist Women Writers, 1650-1689$
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Hero Chalmers

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199273270

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199273270.001.0001

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‘Secret Instructions’: Aphra Behn’s Negotiations of the Political Marketplace

‘Secret Instructions’: Aphra Behn’s Negotiations of the Political Marketplace

Chapter:
(p.149) 4 ‘Secret Instructions’: Aphra Behn’s Negotiations of the Political Marketplace
Source:
Royalist Women Writers, 1650-1689
Author(s):

Hero Chalmers

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199273270.003.04

This chapter shows how Behn and her panegyrists construct an empowering authorial image in which feminine erotic potency and Stuart loyalism are intimately connected by drawing on the celebration of erotic freedom in Tory celebrations of the restored theatre — and especially on their politicisation of the public figure of the actress. The eroticisation of Tory femininity in the climate of a newly libertine court culture and theatre allows fresh inflections of the politicised rhetoric of female heroism at work in Cavendish's authorial image. Yet, in her pindaric odes, in particular, Behn registers the limitations of the eroticised authorial image and seeks to assert her agency as a political writer distinct from the limitations of this construction. In her plays too, she interrogates the idea that sexual libertinism can provide an equally satisfactory expression of pro-Stuart loyalties for men and women alike. Where Behn's more head-on engagement with the literary marketplace often draws her writing closer to propaganda than that of Cavendish or Philips, she also uses her innovative prose fictions as a space to explore the political leverage available to the writer through control over literary representation.

Keywords:   Behn, libertinism, pindaric odes, representation, eroticisation, Toryism

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