Woman in emblem: Locating authority in the work and identity of Katherine Philips (1632--1664)

Susan L Stafinbil, Marquette University


In this dissertation, I examine how the emergence of the printed text contributed to female literary authority in the seventeenth century, specifically in the case of Katherine Philips. Philips's authority as a woman writer can be located via textual history from its earliest manifestations in coterie manuscript circulation to posthumously printed editions of her work. Philips's reputation as a woman writer was based largely on the virtuous qualities emphasized by her peers and commemorated in the posthumous volume of her writings in 1667. Following the printing of this volume, Philips became known as "the Matchless Orinda," a persona which evolved into an emblem of female literary authority in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. In order to illustrate the development of Philips's literary authority and the Orinda emblem, I have arranged the chapters of my dissertation according to the stages of her "career," from her early years as a writer to the period after her death. In the first chapter, I locate Philips's literary authority within the Royalist coterie of friends to whom and about whom she wrote during the interregnum. In the second chapter, I trace the development of her authority within this coterie group as it returned to the center of social and political power during the Restoration and up until Philips's death in 1664. In the third chapter, I examine how the 1667 memorial edition of her work established her literary persona in the highly virtuous construct of the Matchless Orinda, an emblem which came to represent ideal female literary authority. In the fourth chapter, I examine how the Orinda persona was read by subsequent women writers and how the emblem represented female literary authority. Thus I conclude that during her lifetime, Philips's literary authority was situated in her like-minded, somewhat insular group of Royalist associates, where manuscript circulation of texts exemplified the model of social authorship. However, after her death, the textual construction of Philips as the Matchless Orinda shifted the location and nature of her literary authority to the emblematic Orinda persona, which in turn became a model for female literary authority.

Recommended Citation

Stafinbil, Susan L, "Woman in emblem: Locating authority in the work and identity of Katherine Philips (1632--1664)" (2006). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI3231310.