Publication Date



Open access

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


English (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Mihoko Suzuki

Second Committee Member

Pamela Hammons

Third Committee Member

Guido Ruggiero

Fourth Committee Member

Susanne Woods


This project explores the ways in which early modern English women writers engaged with the rhetoric of ideal male friendship. Early modern writers on friendship, drawing from classical texts such as Cicero's De Amicitia, most often defined friendship as a relationship of equality between two virtuous men. Women writers revised this dominant discourse by arguing for their own ability to practice virtuous friendship, thus investing women's friendships with the political significance long carried by the male tradition. In this dissertation, I discuss Isabella Whitney, Aemilia Lanyer, Elizabeth Cary, and Katherine Philips as writers who depict friendships that overcome class or gender differences through the common virtue of the participants. Placing these works alongside those of male writers on friendship such as Francis Bacon, Michel de Montaigne, and William Shakespeare, I demonstrate the ways in which early modern women writers created a space for their own participation in an often exclusionary discourse.


Early Modern; Women's Writing; Friendship; Renaissance