Bad Girls in Renaissance Literature

Anxiety about “bad girls” and rebellious women has a very long history. But what makes a woman “good” or “bad” in the first place? What is a “bad girl,” anyway? This seminar will examine dramatic representations of unruly, cruel, and otherwise tough women as they appear in English Renaissance literature. We might consider the stubborn independence—and abusive “taming”—of Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew; the cross-dressing, hard-drinking, gutter-dwelling Moll Cutpurse in Middleton and Dekker’s play The Roaring Girl; the sexually dominant "dark lady" of Shakespeare's Sonnets; or the mad poets and haughty queens of Mary Wroth's wild and weird romance, Urania. As we explore these unruly representations of femininity, we might also ask what “bad girls” in Renaissance literature can teach us about the female rebelliousness today, from Rihanna’s self-presentation as “Bad Gal Riri” to the tragicomic tales of incarcerated women in Orange Is the New Black.