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"The image of her mind": the self, dissent and femininity in An Collins’s "Divine songs and meditacions"

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An Collins's Divine Songs and Meditacions (1653) presents a tenuous and tentative dissenting subject. Produced at a time of national turmoil and personal crisis, the volume signals the fluidity of the boundaries between denomination and dissent, conformity and subversion. While the Society of Friends was not yet a fully fledged community, Collins's work expresses significant, if irresolute, Quaker leanings. In turn, her devotional self enables her to redefine and rethink the feminine. The Quaker tendency to attempt to transcend the limits of the worldly allows her to reshape social categories, so that the religious impetus to undo and remake the self opens up a space for the speaker to take apart and reformulate the feminine. Traditional signs of femininity, such as bodily frailty and physical enclosure, which seem to define the frame of the speaker's life, become a means of arousing a fertile inner world and releasing an active mind so as to give birth to a newly conceived, if provisional, female writing subject.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)249-265
Number of pages17
JournalWomen's Writing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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