Date of Graduation

12-2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

English

Advisor

Dorothy Stephens

Committee Member

Joseph Candido

Second Committee Member

Danny Sexton

Keywords

Court poetry, England, Henry VIII

Abstract

This work examines gender in the court of King Henry VIII, focusing specifically on the role that the power and weight of Henry's personal decisions played in shaping the contemporary Social definitions of femininity, masculinity, and courtiership. The space of courtiership is particularly open to such inquiry because this space was so often one that revealed the fissures and failures in attempts to maintain the strict binaries that privileged hegemonic masculinity under Henry. These definitions, then, will be reflected in, as well as shaped by, court poetry and, as explored in the final chapter, prose. Literature produced within the context of the court provides a unique perspective on life under King Henry, because the authorship is necessarily limited and elitist, and the poets involved would have both exercised great Social power and been particularly susceptible to the consequences of Henry's greater power. Of particular interest are works by Henry VIII, largely written at the beginning of his reign. A large section of this work focuses on Henry's wives, bringing together historically reliable information, poetry written under or about certain of his wives during their queenships, and contemporary folklore about that woman, the court surrounding her, or Henry's attitudes towards her. Though history has colored many modern constructions of Henry and his wives, the common perceptions and the personal histories of Henry's queens are important elements of the common perception of the court and Henry. Contemporary perceptions of courtiership, women, nobility, and marriage are also used as an important part of constructing the background information for analyzing and interpreting the court under these women. The project also includes examinations of how cultural influences model both sixteenth-century and modern perceptions of central figures, how communal values and constructs create artists and art, and the confluence of art and community in the emergence of new values and constructs, specifically focusing on gender as a Social construct.

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