The Politics of Prosopopoeia: The Pandora Sonnets

  • Rosalind Smith
Part of the Early Modern Literature in History book series (EMLH)


The previous chapters have analyzed the impact that two texts of disputed attribution had upon the field of early modern women’s writing, and most specifically upon women writers’ agency in the genre of the secular lyric. If these histories indicate surprising instances of textual innovation in the field of female writing in the 1560s and 1570s, they also indicate the problems of defining that field solely in terms of historical women writers and texts of secure attribution. Separating the categories of female authorship, female writing and female voice newly allows texts of uncertain attribution to be analyzed within the field of early modern women’s textual practice, reconfiguring its boundaries and altering the ways in which the feminine lyric agency in the genres of sonnet and complaint might be understood. Another such difficult text of uncertain attribution is a third collection of sonnets circulated in print in 1584 in John Soowthern’s Pandora and attributed in the text to Anne de Vere, Countess of Oxford, followed by a single sonnet attributed in the text to Elizabeth I.1 The recent critical history of this text exemplifies one set of difficulties that texts of problematic authorship cause in the field of early modern women’s writing: in this case, the consequences of strained and selective arguments for feminine attribution.


English Text Female Voice Line Ending Female Speaker Male Voice 
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© Rosalind Smith 2005

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  • Rosalind Smith

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