Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Marilyn Francus


Utopian writing by early modern women traditionally has been left out of the canon of utopian literature because it has been overlooked, undervalued, and often does not conform to the genre characteristics set forth by the example of Thomas More and other male writers of "classic utopias." The works recognized by scholars as fitting into this genre have all been written by men, and the few agreed upon works considered as "utopia proper" describe an imaginary, perfect, political state. However, because class and gender greatly influence the form and content of utopia, I argue for the expansion of the definition of utopia and the inclusion of early modern utopian and millenarian writing by women. Utopias written by women do not look like utopias written by men because their experiences and gender position in society are different from men. Furthermore, the distinction between millenarian and utopian texts is negligible because the main difference is whether or not the ideal state is created by divine intervention or by an imaginary ruler. In the seventeenth century there is no division of church and state, and prior to the English Civil Wars, the belief in the divine right of the king was prevalent. The utopian tradition itself is rooted in religion and republicanism and can be traced back to Genesis and not just to Plato's Republic.;When analyzing texts written by early modern women, it is important to understand the social, historical, and political contexts in which they were written. There were many obstacles for the female author to negotiate. A woman who published in the seventeenth century transgressed gender boundaries because at this time, silence was equated with chastity, and the role of author was socially defined as masculine. The writer's class and political affiliation must also be taken into account because the ideology of a Royalist writer was at odds with the ideology of a radical sectarian writer. I examine the publishing history of early modern women in order to demonstrate the strategies they used to authorize their texts and gain access to print. The form of the utopia created by the female writer is determined in large part by the negotiations she had to make as a female writer and as a member of a specific class and political group. (Abstract shortened by UMI.).