This thesis triesto trace the connections between women’s magazines in the past fifty years andthe formation of gender and identity of women. This first chapter has twosections.
The first examines the history and background of the genre of conductliterature and the second section traces the history of feminism. Section oneincludes an examination of a variety of books offering conduct advice from the ancienttimes, down the middle ages, the Renaissance, the works of Addison, Steele andMary Wollstonecraft, up to the 19th century. The second sectionstudies some important developments of the feminist movement which is thetheoretical backbone of this research and also tries to gather some insights onthe position of women in the course of this historical purview. Section 1: A Survey of Conduct Literature i) Ancient and Medieval textsTraditionally,conduct books are known to have originated in the middle ages in Europe.
However, the earliest known literature containingconduct advice is from ancient Egypt.The vizier or prime minister of the pharaohs gave advice to the kings. Thesewere captured in texts like The Instructions of Kagemni or The Maximsof Ptahhotep. Written over two thousand years BC, texts such as the secondone, contain the guidance of viziers (like Ptahhotep) to the King of Egypt.
Theauthor mentions the reason for capturing such a document of instructions in theintroduction. He states that his advanced age and his wish to share theknowledge of his ancestors is the main motive behind penning the book. The maxims are acollection of simple instructions on day to day living. They stress on variousvirtues such as truthfulness and listening skill. For instance: “Listening benefits thelistener.
“; “God loves he who listens. He hates those who do notlisten.”; “He who listens becomes the master of what isprofitable.” Or “Injustice exists in abundance, but evil can neversucceed in the long run.”1 Similarly,Kagemni too recommends humility, silence and restraint, warning that “it takesonly a brief moment to restrain the heart, and it is disgraceful to be greedy.”He also adds that “The humble man flourishes, and he who deals uprightly ispraised.
“2 So honesty, upright moral, kind and just behavior are thecentral themes that are stressed upon in such ancient texts. The two primaryancient Indian texts that could be said to be the beginning of the conductgenre in Indiaare the Panchatantra and the Arthashashtra. Vishnu Sharma’s Panchatantra was written in Sanskritaround the 3rd century BC. It is a book of animal fables originatingfrom a much older oral tradition. The Panchatantrahad travelled widely, to various countries, and had been translated to manydifferent European languages by the 16th century.
The Arthashashtra has been attributed to the4th century BC writer Chanakya. It speaks specially of thestrategies of ruling a state and the duties of a ruler- of discipline, vicesand of dealing with the enemy. Another genreknown for doling out advice on conduct and morals between the 1stand the 5th centuries were the church orders.
These were documents werecirculated in collections. Some of them included: Didache, or Teaching of theTwelve Apostles, (1st-2nd century, Syria); Apostolic Church-Ordinance,(about 300 AD, Egypt);Apostolic Canons of Hippolytus (336-340 AD, Egypt); Testamentum Domini (5thcentury, Syria);Epitome of the eighth Book of the Apostolic Constitutions, or The Constitutionsthrough Hippolytus. M.
Metzger and Paul F. Bradshaw proposed the term”living literature”3 to refer to the church orders as inmost of these texts, only a portion had survived. These were updated and changedgeneration after generation, mixing earlier parts with materials from the contemporaryuses and tradition. Certaindevelopmental patterns for the content of this literature may be observed. Forinstance, the more ancient texts, such as Didache, were mainly concerned aboutmoral conduct, thus they gave very little room to liturgy and to Churchorganization. However, in the later texts the interest on moral issues wanedand liturgy became more prominent. Thus they became manuals providingguidelines to the clergy, comprising of instructions on discipline, worship anddoctrine. Along with these, the works of the 4th century Latinauthor Dyonisius Cato, were quoted repeatedly and finally published in themedieval age.
The Apostolic documents had specific orders against vices like greed,hate, murder, adultery, theft, magic, sorcery, abortion, infanticide, speakingevil, holding grudges, hypocrisy, maliciousness, arrogance, plotting evilagainst neighbors, narcissism and so on. They also explained the connection between all of these – by reiteratinghow one vice often led to another. For example anger could lead to murder, or concupiscenceto adultery. The one majordifference between the earlier treatises and those written later in the middleages was that in the earlier works, the point of emphasis was on morals, but inthe later works it shifted to manners. It was from the middle-ages that thenotion of conduct literature per se came into existence. Medieval scholarshiphad entertained the idea of conduct by privileging certain texts and callingthem conduct or courtesy books. Courtesy books mainly consisted of prosetreatises or poems teaching the ‘etiquette’ of the court. Courtesy literaturecan be traced back to 13th century Italian and German books on courtmanners.
Conduct books were written for men, women and children alike. Theywere agents of teaching people to behave. Thus, for every age, the conductliterature would be a means of studying the social expectations from the peopleliving in that particular time. In the early middle ages and the renaissance, a genre looselyknown as Mirrors for Princes became very popular. These were texts were aimedat educating kings, princes and rulers of states in the rules of governance aswell as behaviour. This particular tradition of writing was influenced by the 4thcentury BC Cyropedia, written by Xenophon, a student of Socrates. Cyropediais about the education of Cyrus, to become a ruler.
Two texts on conduct can benamed from the 13th century. In 1215, Thomasin of Zerklaere wrote atreatise of manners – Der Walsche Gast. Then in 1265 Dante’s teacherBrunetto Latini published his Tesoretto. An interesting point to benoted from these texts is the change and development in manners along withimproved life styles and conditions. The fundamental basis of ‘good’ mannerschanged over a period of time.
ii) The Renaissance The academic universe of late medieval scholasticism wascriticised as being limited to a series of dialogues between concepts of scienceand philosophy by the humanists in the Renaissance. Humanism was an educationaland philosophical movement that rose in England in the 16th and 17thcenturies. This period had its own set of rules of conduct for men and women.The movement mainly benefited men and boys as women were kept on the periphery.Humanism had originated in 14th century Italy, spread through the educatedclasses of early 16th century Englandand continued its influence into the 17th century. 16thcentury humanists like Thomas More, Thomas Elyot and Vives offered aneducational and linguistic programme for those who wished to pursue the”New Learning”.4 They stressed on learning classicallanguages, philosophy, law, personal ethics and civic duties.
Thoughtheoretically the humanists had a lot to offer to women, in practice, suchlearning was to be found at the Universities, thus making it out of women’s reach. The early 16thcentury was a paradoxical time in Britain. It was consideredunwomanly to write, yet a number of women at this time wrote conduct books,pamphlets and other texts. It is interesting to note the position of womenduring this period. Women at this time had no status in law. They were onlydaughters, wives or widows of men. Their roles were that of silent listeners,not writers or speakers.
The church prescribed them to remain silent and listento the advice of husbands and pastors. They were regarded as the daughters ofEve, with a continuing proneness to temptation and a disproportionate burden ofguilt. However, it must not be assumed that the patriarchy was upheld by menalone. Women themselves were often the strongest to absorb and reflect thetropes of misogynist thinking. Hilda L. Smithin her essay “Humanist education and the Renaissance concept ofwoman”, argues that women existed more as “a category in the minds ofRenaissance authors than as disparate individuals”. Renaissance humanism,Smith says, was “closely tied to a gentleman’s career”.
5 Womencontinued to be omitted from it. Famous humanist texts which provided politicalguidance and advice, included Sir Thomas More’s Utopia (1516, Latin;1551, English), Baldassare Castiglione’s The Courtier (1531, Italian;1561 English), Thomas Elyot’s The Governour (1531), and Niccolo Machiavelli’sThe Prince (1569, Italian, 1640, English). Castiglione’s book addressedproper behaviour at court and Machiavelli’s was a guide for princes. Both ofthese books were written in Italian. Nevertheless, they were a powerfulinfluence on developing the concept of public virtue in 16th centuryEngland.
Each of these authors counselled the ruling and governing classes on practicaland ethical questions. Machiavelli’s Il Principe or The Prince was writtenin a style similar to mirrors for princes. It covered matters of importance toprinces like virtue, states, military, qualities (reputation, generosity,cruelty, mercy), or prudence (conquests, honour, staff). The Prince has oftenbeen interpreted as going against the basic tenets of monarchy and being morepro-republic.
Critics have differed in their opinions, where some felt that itwas a satiric work, others argued that it was a carefully crafted book of advice.Rousseau in his Social Contract wrote: “Machiavelli was aproper man and a good citizen; but, being attached to the court of the Medici,he could not help veiling his love of liberty in the midst of his country’soppression. The choice of his detestable hero, Caesar Borgia, clearly enough showshis hidden aim; and the contradiction between the teaching of the Prince andthat of the Discourses on Livy and the History of Florence shows that thisprofound political thinker has so far been studied only by superficial orcorrupt readers. The Court of Rome sternly prohibited his book.
I can wellbelieve it; for it is that Court it most clearly portrays.”— (SocialContract, Book 3) 6 One of the most popular and influential conduct books in theRenaissance, was Castiglione’s Il Cortegiano or The Book of the Courtier. The bookmostly addressed the process of becoming a perfect courtier, and in the finalinstallment, Castiglione also writes about how to be a perfect lady. In England, the vogue for such literature resulted mainlyfrom Elizabethan translations of this and two other sixteenth-century Italiantexts on courtly manners and morals: Giovanni della Casa’s Il Galateo (1558) and Stefano Guazzo’s LaCivil Conversazione (1574). Juan LuisVives’s Instruction of a Christian Woman (1529) and his Plan forStudy of Girls (1523); Thomas Elyot’s Defence of Good Women (1540);and John Aylmer’s defence of Elizabeth’srule, A Harbour for Faithful and True Subjects (1559) against JohnKnox’s attack on women rulers, The First Blast of the Trumpet against themonstrous regiment of women(1558) were some important humanist textsconcerning women. Boccaccio’s Concerning Famous Women (1359; firstEnglish translation, 1963) and Herricus Cornelius Agrippa’s work, A Treatisefor the Nobility of Womenkind (1542) were a model for many others to presentexamples of women’s superiority – linguistic, historical and mythical. Agrippa,for instance argued that ‘Eve’ stood for soul, and so was linguisticallysuperior to ‘Adam’, associated with earth.
7 An importantcontroversy which surfaced in the conduct books during this period was thatconcerning women’s education. It was centred around whether women needededucation and if so, to what extent they should be allowed to study. Thisdebate revealed itself in many of the books providing conduct advice. EdwardGosynhyll expressed that this debate was a lucrative one that led to financialgain. 8 Much writing, therefore, was published on this theme duringthe 16th century.
Gosynhyll himself, for instance, wrote TheScholehouse of Women (1541) to ridicule women’s learning. But in ThePraise of all Women (1542), he praised the character and intelligence ofwomen. It was Juan LuisVives’s work, Instruction of a Christian Woman that set the parametersof women’s learning in the 16th century, but it was only a narrow viewof the proper education of women. The book addressed only the aristocratic classof women and just nine pages of his book were devoted to the actual educationof women. Most of the book treated “manners and family, especially how awife should establish respect toward her husband and his relatives”.9In his “Plan for Study of Girls”,Vives offered guidance to help women to develop into well-informed and charmingcompanions to their husbands, pious and good Christians, who were easily ableto understand and deal with Scriptures. Vives stressedthat it was wrong for women to want to learn beyond their needs or to goabroad. He also stressed on the necessity for strict female chastity He addedthat women should not teach lest they ‘bring others into the same error’ asindividuals of ‘weak discretion, and that may lightly be deceived’.
10Women’s responsibility thus, was tied to ‘honesty and chastity’. In any case,her domestic life left her with little time for learning or ‘wandering out fromhome’. In his Instruction of a Christian Woman Vives stressed that women’seducation must be closely supervised so that it did not encourage them to raisequestions beyond their capabilities or take them out of the home into crude andimproper public debates and discussions. Vives has been criticisedfor a flawed view of women’s education. However, other 16th century writersalso restricted women’s learning and public role while advising them on conduct.These included Thomas Elyot in The Governor and The Defence of GoodWomen and Richard Mulcaster in his treatise on general education which had abrief chapter on educating girls. More and Vives both limited the ends ofwomen’s education to the family circle, but unlike Vives, More also urged for atraining in positive language.
Though Latin was the language of learned men ofthe time, Elyot’s The Governorwas published in English to show that abstract disciplines could also beexpressed in English. Here, Elyot talks of ‘inferior governors’ or magistrates,a class, at which much of his educational plan was directed. In this text, Elyotprovided tips on bringing up a child (boy). He said that a boy’s educationshould begin with music, dancing, painting. By the age of fourteen the pupilshould concentrate on rhetoric and logic, and read Cicero. Law was prescribed at fifteen andafter that he should devote his time to the study of philosophy and government.
Such a wholesome education would help to instill grace, valour, reason and judgmentin young men according to Elyot. Elyot’s Defenceof Good Women was written in a dialogue form and lacked the systematicstructure of The Governor. It centered around Lady Zenobia, a womaninterested in learning. Two debaters argue on whether Aristotle’s view of womenas different and ‘imperfect’ was true and should stop them from pursuinglearning. The defence of this view was significantly weak and Zenobia herself joinsin the debate to stress that her goals for education would not get in the way ofher subordination to her husband. This was followed by examples of ancient heroineswho had sacrificed everything for their husbands and children.
Patience andconservation were highlighted as women’s duties in this book and it wasacknowledged that these required more skill than strength and acquisition whichwere the responsibilities of men. The Defence of Good Women, however,did not incorporate women’s education into humanist values. Thomas More, inhis letters, instructed his daughters to work diligently, read the Scripturesand to be modest. More insisted on linguistic and rhetorical perfection and heexpressed pleasure that their letters maintained appropriate standards,”full of fine wit, and of a pure Latin phrase”.11 He tellshis daughters to write letters to him everyday and concludes that women are”prattlers by nature”. Hilda Smith mentions that More was one of ahandful of Renaissance thinkers who gave or advocated equal education todaughters and that in many ways his is the most positive humanist voice in 16thcentury England.Pamela Joseph Benson,in attempting to explore The Invention of the Renaissance Woman, setsRenaissance writings about women into a broader rhetorical context. She arguesthat the Renaissance humanists followed two alternatives for the model woman -the “justice” model, which contended that women could possesscardinal virtues along with men; and the “care” model, whichglorified the higher/superior moral nature and virtue of women.
12 iii) The 17th and 18th century By the 17thcentury, a new form of conduct books- periodicals- aimed mainly at women,became very popular. Sir George Savile, Marquis of Halifax wrote several essays with advice onconduct. Halifax’swritings in “Advice to a daughter” (1688) lacked the intellectual seriousnessof More’s text.
He advised her to have tolerance and rationality and was moreconcerned with preparing his daughter for her responsibilities as an adult insociety. The work has a pleasant, rare mix of reason and faith. For Halifax, “Religionis exalted Reason”. 13 The role he outlined for his daughter’smarried life is quite similar to More’s, but with less focus on seriousscholarship. She should simply follow her father’s guidelines for pursuing rationalChristianity rather than developing an independent path. Unlike More, Halifax explicitlydiscusses the differential power relationships between the sexes: “..
.there is inequality in sexes, andthat for the better economy of the world; the Men, who were to be the lawgivers, had the larger share of reason bestow’ed upon them; by which means yoursex is the better prepar’d for the compliance that is necesssary for theperformance of those duties which seem’d to be most properly assigned to it.” 14 Halifax admitted that the marriage contract washarsh for women and the emphasis on compliance of their duties stronger withinmarriage. Women’s supposed inferiority was, for him, to be balanced by themight of their gentleness over male reason and power, their control of the childrenand their lifelong influence on men. Marriage dictated women’s lesser status,and the “institution of marriage was too sacred to admit to a liberty ofobjection to it.
” There was sufficient evidence of women’s being the’weaker’ sex to accept it. He thus stated to his daughter that: “You are therefore to make the best ofwhat is settled by law, and not vainly imagine, that it will be changed foryour sake.” 15 The rest of hisbook contained some advice and encouragement on handling difficult husbands nomatter what they were like – drunkards, wasters or without any reason. She wasto always maintain her modesty and to remember that “discretion andsilence will be the most prevailing reproof”.
16 While integratingconcepts of science and power, Halifax’spicture is just as restricted as More’s for an adult woman. He either acceptedwomen’s intellectual inferiority or simply wanted his daughter to believe in itfor her own sake. Benevolent men like More and Halifax stressed obedience to husband andpiety toward God as central goals of their girls’ training. Humanist educationthus did not transform women’s lives as it did for boys and men. In spite of manydifferences, two common themes seemed to emerge from all these works. Firstly, itwas clear that the humanist educational and social programme preparing men forlearning and responsible positions did not apply to women. Secondly, women weresteeped in the Christian virtues associated with the earlier medieval world morethan men. Demands for morality and chastity inhibited women and narrowed their existence.
Ruth Kelso noted this in her ground breaking work of 1956, Doctrine for theLady of the Renaissance: “The moral ideal for the lady isessentially Christian…
as that for the gentleman is essentially pagan. For himthe ideal is self expansion and realization …
For the lady the direct oppositeis prescribed. The eminently Christian virtues of chastity, humility, piety,and patience under suffering and wrong, are the necessary virtues.” 17 In the 17th century,tracts on women demonstrate a nasty turn. Authors debated whether women were associatedwith the devil and if men could beat their wives. From the 1620s, adviceliterature pertaining to women adopted a more puritan tone in William Gouge’sdescription Of Domesticall Duties (1622) and in conduct books likeRichard Brathwaite’s, The English Gentlewoman(1631).These books avoidedthe misogynistic approach of Joseph Swetnam’s The Arraignment of Lewd, idle,froward and unconstant women (1615). But they advocated restricted,domestic lives of women. Daniel Defoewas one of the prolific writers of the early 18th century inEngland.
He wrote numerous pamphlets and conduct manuals. His most popularconduct manual was The Family Instructor (1715). In this manual, hecreated a new style of providing conduct advice, very different from that foundin the post –Restoration conduct book which was usually dry, preaching men andwomen on the do’s and don’ts of ethics, religion and morality.
Defoe, in TheFamily Instructor, created a basic set of characters in a ‘moral’ middleclass nuclear family. Through their dialogues, he delivered the rules ofconduct and spirituality. Thus, this new format of a ‘Religious play’ 18served to both entertain and educate the readers. The family adheres to a rigiddefinition of gender roles that confines women to the home under the d