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10 - ‘With a Sword Drawne in Her Hande’: Defending the Boundaries of Household Space in Seventeenth-Century Wales

from Part III - Women's Voices and Women's Spaces

Nicola Whyte
Affiliation:
University of Exeter
Bronach Kane
Affiliation:
Bath Spa University
Fiona Williamson
Affiliation:
National University of Malaysia
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Summary

Introduction

Recent explorations of gender and household space have convincingly demonstrated that domestic space cannot easily be separated into feminine and masculine spheres. Research on masculinity and the political conceptualization of early modern households has highlighted the importance of dwellings as signifiers of identity for both men and women. Protestant writers employed the male body as a metaphor for the house. Invasions of household space were analogous to an attack upon patriarchal order and dominance, and the honour and reputation of the husband and father. Just as the dwelling house informed and signified manliness, female honour and reputation was also bound up with cultural discourses concerning the moral worth of the household, nourished and sustained by the ‘good housewife’. Women, especially married women, assumed a significant role in demarcating and reinforcing the physical and conceptual boundaries of the home. The expanding body of research in this field invites a more nuanced approach to understanding married relations based upon patterns of integration rather than separation. An assault on the material and moral worth of the household amounted to a violation of the reputation and authority of both husband and wife.

Metaphors of household and dwelling in patriarchal discourse suggest stability, rootedness and a deep temporal attachment to place.

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Publisher: Pickering & Chatto
First published in: 2014

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