Recent trends in autobiographical studies have highlighted the generic fluidity and complexity of much autobiographical expression, especially that written in 16th- and 17th-century England. This essay traces a particular focus within this more general trend by examining recent considerations of how the romance genre offered a form as well as a model for much life writing during this period, especially life writing by women. This scholarship complicates assumptions about a rigid separation between private and public spheres in early modern England and about the role of religious discourse in early modern women's life writing. Certainly, spiritual discourses influenced women at this time in powerful and complex ways, and they offered a valuable and socially sanctioned means of self-exploration, but they did not exist in a vacuum; more accurate analyses of early modern women's selves attend to the conjunction of both spiritual and secular discourses in an individual's self-construction. Romance is one of the most important of these secular generic influences.
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© 2008 The Author. Journal Compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.