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Aemilia Lanyer was a Londoner of Jewish-Italian descent and the mistress of Queen Elizabeth’s Lord Chamberlain. But in 1611 she did something extraordinary for a middle-class woman of the seventeenth century: she published a volume of original poems.

Using standard genres to address distinctly feminine concerns, Lanyer’s work is varied, subtle, provocative, and witty. Her religious poem “Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum” repeatedly projects a female subject for a female reader and casts the Passion in terms of gender conflict. Lanyer also carried this concern with gender into the very structure of the poem; whereas a work of praise usually held up the superiority of its patrons, the good women in Lanyer’s poem exemplify worth women in general.

The essays in this volume establish the facts of Lanyer’s life and use her poetry to interrogate that of her male contemporaries, Donne, Jonson, and Shakespeare. Lanyer’s work sheds light on views of gender and class identities in early modern society. By using Lanyer to look at the larger issues of women writers working within a patriarchal system, the authors go beyond the explication of Lanyer’s writing to address the dynamics of canonization and the construction of literary history.

Marshall Grossman, professor of English at the University of Maryland College Park is the author of The Story of All Things: Writing the Self in English Renaissance Narrative Poetry.

"This is a fine collection of essays about a poet who deserves her new-found fame."—Choice

"Important because it offers a portrait of the emerging official Aemilia Lanyer now in the process of being absorbed into our teaching and our understanding of literary history."—Early Modern Literary Studies

"This excellent volume is the first anthology of scholarship and criticism on an important poet and provides many rich cultural contexts for Lanyer's work."—Elaine V. Beilin

"Lanyer should not be taught without this varied collection of important essays."—Notes and Queries

"A thoroughly high quality collection of essays that allows the reader to consider a variety of scholarly questions about the importance of Lanyer."—Renaissance Quarterly

"The essays' diverse perspectives on recurring issues create a productive dialogue across the volume and highlight the richness of Lanyer's texts."—Seventeenth-Century News

"Many of these essays break new ground and, together, they examine the whole of Lanyer’s oeuvre from theoretically and historically informed perspectives."—Years Work in English Studies

"Succeeds in altering the context in which we read the largely male literature of the period."—Bibliotheque d'Humanisme et Renaissance

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Aemilia Lanyer, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum, Christian poetry, Canon, English Renaissance


Literature in English, British Isles

Aemilia Lanyer: Gender, Genre, and the Canon
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