Monday, February 3, 2014

Melanie Palsky on Sisters Across the Atlantic: Aphra Behn and Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz by Donna Kretsch

Kretsch argued that, although Aphra Behn and Sor Juana Inez had lifestyle differences and lived across the Atlantic from each other, several common factors attributed to both of them producing feminist writings. Behn lived a more sexually liberal lifestyle, while Inez was a devoted nun. Their writing voices even displayed their lifestyle choices – Behn, a bad girl voice, and Inez, a good girl voice. Their writings both stated the double standard of men calling upon women; refuse and be ungrateful, or give in and be degraded for being weak. Two main reasons for their similar feminist voices, Kretsch persuades, was connection to the royal court, and education in literary classics.
            This article was interesting, because Kretsch’s evidence covered two women in different situations and lands, however, this same point draws negative aspects as well. While, it is remarkable to read of feminist voices in women’s literature, Behn and Inez were not average women. Their education and connection to royal courts raises them away from the general masses. However, maybe their voices were heard and preserved, because of these exact facts. Regardless, this article is informative in the foundations of feminism for Behn and Inez.
            Gender, feminism, religion, law, education, citizenship, and employment are all themes relating to this article. Kretsch explained that Behn and Inez were both educated women and had similar political and religious views, under the courts of Charles II. Their publications created backlash from the men around them, colleagues and religious leaders, although, only Behn wrote to support herself financially. These themes correspond to both, Behn, and Inez’s lives, creating their feminist writings.


  1. Melanie,

    I, too, find Aphra Behn to be a very interesting and controversial character. In a previous history class of mine on European Society (social history), we talked about her novel "Oroonoko" and what it meant as a critique of race and class. Interestingly enough, just as this book talks about an African slave, "Oroonoko," and compares the African way of life and morals with the superficiality of European Christianity, it also touches on Oroonoko's relationship with his wife. Among other virtues, Oroonoko is praised for demonstrating pure love for only one woman, rather than concubines. What does this say about European society? About the prioritization of gender roles and women when compared to the discussions of class or race?

    In light of these questions, I wonder whether we can truly classify Aphra Behn as a feminist. Like you said, she did not come from a typical background. Additionally, she isn't necessarily arguing for women as a group, nor the restrictions in place against them. However, I will acknowledge that her critiques of society are potentially important for feminism. For just as we said in class, changes in society often lead to changes in the roles of women (and vice versa).

  2. Melanie,

    I have more to comment, but have decided to use the content for my own blog post. I would invite you to look at mine and respond, should you be interested! I'd love to hear your thoughts.