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The Critical Fortunes Of Aphra Behn - Isbn:9781571131652

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  • Book Title: The Critical Fortunes of Aphra Behn
  • ISBN 13: 9781571131652
  • ISBN 10: 1571131655
  • Author: Janet M. Todd
  • Category: Drama
  • Category (general): Drama
  • Publisher: Camden House
  • Format & Number of pages: 160 pages, book
  • Synopsis: In his article on the truth and falsehood of Oroonoko (1988), Robert Chibka had already emphasized Imoinda: in all the shifting of ... In her article "Juggling the Categories of Race, Class, and Gender: Aphra Behn's Oroonoko" (1991) Ferguson ...

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Aphra Behn

Aphra Behn

Aphra Behn ( July 10. 1640 – April 16. 1689 ) was a prolific dramatist of the Restoration and was one of the first English professional female writers. Her writing participated in the amatory fiction genre of British literature.

The personal history of Aphra Behn, one of the first Englishwomen credited to earn their livelihood by authorship, [ Montague Summers. "The Works of Aphra Behn". London: William Heineman, 1913 ] is difficult to unravel and relate. Information regarding her, especially her early life, is scant, but she was almost certainly born in Wye. near Canterbury. on July 10. 1640 to Bartholomew Johnson, a barber, and Elizabeth Denham. The two were married in 1638 and Aphra, or "Eaffry", was baptized on December 14. 1640. Elizabeth Denham was employed as a nurse to the wealthy Colepeper family, who lived locally, which means that it is likely that Aphra grew up with and spent time with the family's children. The younger child, Thomas Colepeper. later described Aphra as his foster sister's. In 1663 she visited an English sugar colony on the Suriname River. on the coast east of Venezuela (a region later known as Suriname ). During this trip she is supposed to have met an African slave leader, whose story formed the basis for one of her most famous works, " Oroonoko ". The veracity of her journey to Suriname has often been called into question; however, enough evidence has been found that most Behn scholars today believe that the trip did indeed take place.

Though little is really known about Behn’s early years, evidence suggests that she may have had a Catholic upbringing. She once admitted that she was "designed for a nun" and the fact that she had so many Catholic connections, such as Henry Neville who was later arrested, would certainly have aroused suspicions during the anti-Catholic fervor of the 1680s (Goreau 243). Her sympathy to the Catholics is further demonstrated by her dedication of her play "The Rover II" to the Catholic Duke of York who had been exiled for the second time (247).

Though Behn was sympathetic to Catholics, she was firmly dedicated to the restored King Charles II. As political parties first emerged during this time, Behn was a Tory supporter. Tories believed in absolute allegiance to the king, who governed by divine right (246). Behn often used her writings to attack the parliamentary Whigs claiming "In public spirits call’d, good o’ th’ Commonwealth…So tho’ by different ways the fever seize…in all ’tis one and the same mad disease." This was Behn’s reproach to parliament which had denied the king funds. Like most Tories, Behn was distrustful of Parliament and Whigs since the Revolution and wrote propaganda in support of the restored monarchy (248).

Life in England, writing career, work as a spy

Shortly after her return to England in 1664 Aphra Johnson married Johan Behn, who was a merchant of German or Dutch extraction. Little conclusive information is known about their marriage, but it did not last for more than a few years. Some scholars believe that the marriage never existed and Behn made it up purely to gain the status of a widow, which would have been much more beneficial for what she was trying to achieve. She was reportedly bisexual. and held a larger attraction to women than to men, a trait that, coupled with her writings and references of this nature, would eventually make her popular in the writing and artistic communities of the 20th century and present day. [http://www.acs.ucalgary.ca/%7emamaes/17a.html 17thwomen ] ] [http://feminism.eserver.org/theory/papers/memoir-of-aphra-behn.txt/document_view Feminism and Women's Studies: Memoir of Aphra Behn ] ] [http://www.aestheticrealism.net/aesnyc141/Aphra_Behn_NH.htm Aphra Behn: or, What Is Triumph in Love? A consideration based on the Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel ] ]

By 1666 Behn had become attached to the Court, possibly through the influence of Thomas Culpepper and other associates of influence, where she was recruited as a political spy to Antwerp by Charles II. Her code name for her exploits is said to have been "Astrea", a name under which she subsequently published much of her writings. The Second Anglo-Dutch War had broken out between England and the Netherlands in 1665. She became the lover to a prominent and powerful royal, and from him she obtained political secrets to be used to the English advantage.

Behn's exploits were not profitable, however, as Charles was slow in paying (if he paid at all) for either her services or her expenses whilst abroad. Money had to be borrowed for Behn to return to London. where a year's petitioning of Charles for payment went unheard, and she ended up in a debtor's prison. By 1669 an undisclosed source had paid Behn's debts, and she was released from prison, starting from this point to become one of the first women who wrote for a living. She cultivated the friendship of various playwrights, and starting in 1670 she produced many plays and novels, as well as poems and pamphlets. Her most popular works included "The Rover ", " Love-Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister ", and " Oroonoko ". Amongst her notable critics was Alexander Pope. against whom she has been defended.

Aphra Behn died on April 16. 1689. and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Below the inscription on her tombstone read the words: "Here lies a Proof that Wit can never be / Defence enough against Mortality." [http://www.poetsgraves.co.uk/images/behn_aphra.jpg ] She was quoted as once stating that she had led a "life dedicated to pleasure and poetry."

tatus among other writers throughout history

In author Virginia Woolf 's reckoning, Behn's total career is more important than any particular work it produced. Woolf wrote, "All women together, ought to let flowers fall upon the grave of Aphra Behn. for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds." [Woolf, Virginia. " A Room of One's Own ". 1928, at 65 ]. After a hiatus in the 19th century, when both the writer and the work were dismissed as indecent, Behn's fame has now undergone extraordinary revival. She dominates cultural-studies discourse as both a topic and a set of texts. [http://occawlonline.pearsoned.com/bookbind/pubbooks/damrosch_awl/chapter4/medialib/behn.html ] ]. Much early criticism emphasized her unusual status as a female writer in a male-dominated literary world; more recent criticism has offered more thorough discussions of her works. [Walters, Margaret. "Feminism: A very short introduction". Oxford University 2005 at 24 (ISBN 0-19-280510-X) ]

In an age of libertines, Behn undertook to proclaim and to analyse women's sexual desire, as manifested in her characters and in herself. She has since become a favorite among sexually liberated women, many of bisexual or lesbian orientation, who proclaim her as one of their most positive influences.

Today, the affinities between Behn's work and that of Romantic writers seem more pronounced than the different level of publicly acceptable discussion of sexuality. [http://hal.ucr.edu/

cathy/behnrev.html Review of Todd's edition of Behn's Works ] ] It has been written that "Behn's writings unveil the homosocial role of male rivalry in stimulating heterosexual desire for women and explores the ways in which cross dressing and masquerade complicate and destabilize gender relations. Behn also analyzes female friendships and, more rarely, lesbianism". One source of speculation has been the identification of Behn with some of her characters. For instance in The Rover. the similarity in names between Behn and the prostitute Angellica Bianca is interesting.

"I, vainly proud of my personal judgement, hang out the Sign of Angellica"

In several volumes of writings by author Janet Todd. Behn's explorations of some of the key issues in Romantic studies, such as the role of incest uous and homosocial bonding in romance, the correlations between racial and gender oppression, female subjectivity, and, more specifically, female political and sexual agency are detailed.

The noted critic Harold Bloom calls Behn a "fourth-rate playwright" and notes her resurgent popularity as a case of " dumbing down ." [ [http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2003/09/24/dumbing_down_american_readers/ Boston.com / News / Boston Globe / Editorial / Opinion / Op-ed / Dumbing down American readers ] ]

She appears as a fictional character in the Faction Paradox novel " Newtons Sleep ".

Her exploits as a spy, and the misuse of the intelligence she gathered is alluded to in Patrick O'Brian 's novel "Desolation Island ".

Aphra Behn’s writing is unique for its time because of her use of the narrator’s voice and her innovative use of visual deceptions in her plays. According to Dawn Lewcock, Behn’s narrative voice is "sometimes as the dispassionately passionate observer in Oroonoko, sometimes in an ironic aside with the implicit assumption of a common understanding with her readers, as in her shorter novels and longer poems" (66). She takes on a narrative voice that is characteristically her own by using a removed but somehow still involved narrator in Oroonoko and changing to a different, ironic voice in other works. For Francis F. Steen, Behn’s narration can be dangerously frank: "…Behn openly reveals what by rights should be the secrets of her trade. Must not her common readers be kept in the dark about this secret coalition between the author and state power? Is her openly professed loyalty tantamount to a betrayal?" (93) The possibility of rejection and failure is increased by her honesty in a matter that other playwrights of the time would not concede to the audience.

Behn’s plays were also novel because she used visual cues in a way that they had never before been used. Dawn Lewcock comments on this ingenuity, saying "What is unique to Behn is not only her appreciation of the visual effects of a performance but also the way that she uses this to affect the perceptions of the audience and change their conception and comprehension of her plots and/or her underlying theme as she wishes by integrating the theatrical possibilities into her dramatic structure" (66-67). Lewcock goes on to explain this with the mistaken identities present in The Amorous Prince where disguises play a crucial role in the plot of the play.

Behn's minor poetry, as collected in her Poems Upon Several Occasions (1684), is a veritable treasure-trove of her unabashed ideas about sexuality. These poems were written in the pastoral tradition, which she characterizes as specifically sexual. The world of the pastoral, which she fills with amorous shepherds and shepherdesses, creates for her a space in which to explore the nature and virtues of free love.

For example, "The Golden Age," which in many ways is a call to regress back to a state of peace, of quiescence, like during the reign of Elizabeth I. This time has been hyperbolically compared to the "Golden Age" of the ancients by the Elizabethans, and the name was used to describe both periods. Because the term is so steeped in history, politics, and lore, Ovid's description of the "Golden Age" seems necessary. From the Metamorphosis:

Golden, that first age, which, though ignorantof laws, yet of its own will, uncoerced,fostered responsibility and virtue;men had no fear of any punishment, nor did they read of threatened penaltiesengraved on bronze; no throng of suppliantstrembled before the visage of a judgeor sought protection from the laws themselves.As yet no pine tree on its mountaintophad been chopped down and fitted out to shipfor foreign lands; men kept to their own shores. without warfare, allthe nations lived, securely indolent.No rake had been familiar with the earth,no plowshare had yet wronged her; untaxed, she gaveof herself freely, providing all essentials." I.126-43

However, Behn does much more with the term "Golden Age." Saying that it refers to only a time of prosperity in English history or a mythic paradise is vastly insufficient. What Behn creates is a pastoral world of free love, where sexual play can occur in a place outside of the Court and society, untrammeled by the customs of politeness. It is an unbound place, without inhibition.

The pastoral has always been a form in which writers can explore the culture from which they depart. In "The Golden Age" (as in her other pastoral poems), all the joys, difficulties, and foibles of sexual love can be explored without consequence. The speaker inverts Ovid's "Golden Age" into a sort of lesbian paradise, where men are impotent, and where women reign. In Ovid, there were no agricultural practices: "no rake had been familiar with the earth." Behn uses the idea to conflate the image of the earth with the image of women. In Ovid the earth is being invaded, in Behn, it is women. The "stubborn plow" of a man had not made any "rude Rapes" with a woman. Women reproduce, though, without men's "Aids." Men's "snakes" are impotent, their "spightful venom" not being injected into women, leaving the "Nymphs" (the women) to "innocently play." In Ovid, the world is "without warfare"; in Behn, warfare is replaced with the conquest of men's bodies into women's. The world of politics, power, and sex are all combined into one masculine, heterosexual issue. The language she uses unifies all three by using words that combine elements from each, dissolving their definitions. This corrupt world is described using masculine terms and by employing symbolic imagery. There are no "Rapes, Invasions, Tyrannies" in her golden age; sex is not forced for "Glories name." These double meanings—linking sex and war—pepper the first half of the poem.

In Behn's golden age there is no such thing as deviant love, for "that was lawful all, that Pleasure did invite." Her imagined world is not strictly without men, but sex is entirely on women's terms. Women, in this world have complete sexual control and agency. In section 6, the maid gives only "kind Resistance" to the her male lover, who is able to perform only with the help of the gods. For her, "Trembling and blushing are no marks of shame, / But the effect of kindling Flame." The Shepherdess' lover does not "Rape" or "Invade" with his "Rough Plow," injecting her with "spightful venom," but is "permit [ed] " to "win the prize." Women have complete control—it is they who win.

The last section tells the purpose for imagining such a place. The speaker has been wronged, which prompted her to write the poem in reaction. The section has a distinct carpe diem feeling, indirectly urging "Sylvia" to accept her love, for, the speaker says, "when the fresh Roses on your Cheeks shall die. Eternally will they forgotten lye." This poem rejects a strictly heterosexual social order in favor of including bisexual and homosexual love, reversing the household dynamic of female subordination to her male "counterpart." She achieves this with masterful, witty poetry that is at once fun to read and thought-provoking.

Or take her poem, "The Disappointment." Her rejection of any sort of modesty—scandalous for a man, unthinkable for a woman—destabilizes the accepted norms of gender and sexuality of her time. In much of her poetry, Behn works to unmask sex from the oppression of censorship, separating it from respectability, to reveal it for what it truly is: a real life force that can (and must) be scrutinized as well as laughed about. In this way, her pastoral poetry, when read as a whole unit, is something akin to a discussion. By reversing, confusing, and confounding sexuality/gender, Behn liberates her young swains from traditional, conservative restraints. The pastoral is an ideal method of carrying out this liberation, though it itself presents many problems for Behn. The pastoral is a male-dominated tradition, making it difficult for her as a woman poet to write about her uninhibited sexuality. In "The Disappointment," Behn may be using the pastoral against itself, wielding its conventional tropes in such a way that it is rendered, quite literally, impotent. Gender roles are reversed, and the prototypical pastoral figure, the shepherd, cannot perform the one duty all his peers do in many other pastorals. As in "The Golden Age," in "The Disappointment" women are the active lovers, and men the passive. The attention shifts from male to female, from penis to vagina. It is Lysander who is the victim of himself, and Cloris who established dominance over her lover. This frees up space within the green world of the pastoral for Behn as a woman writer to express herself.

The poem is about male impotence—a common theme in Behn's poetry. In this comic tale, two pastoral lovers attempt to satisfy their lust to no avail. The title cleverly reflects the theme. If we dissect the word "disappointment" we get an ingenious pun in "dis-a-point-ment": the state of having one's "point" taken away. The state of each lover is given here: Cloris is "disappointed" while Lysander is "dis-a-point-ed."

These are just two examples of her hundreds of amorous poems, songs, ballads, and dialogues that fill Poems Upon Several Occasions. Behn's fierce courage as a poet, publishing her poems and prying into the exclusively androcentric sphere, is a testament to the audacity that today has made her among the most important Early Modern writers.

*"The Forced Marriage" (1670)
*"The Amorous Prince" (1671)
*"The Dutch Lover" (1673)
*"Abdelazer " (1676)
*"The Town Fop" (1676)
*"The Rover ", Part 1 (1677) and Part 2 (1681)
*"Sir Patient Fancy" (1678)
*"The Feigned Courtesans" (1679)
*"The Young King" (1679)
*"The False Count" (1681)
*"The Roundheads" (1681)
*" The City Heiress " (1682)
*"Like Father, Like Son" (1682)
*"The Lucky Chance" (1686) with composer John Blow
*" The Emperor of the Moon " (1687)Posthumously performed
*"The Widdow Ranter" (1689) [ [http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/etas/45/ Online etext ] ]
*"The Younger Brother" (1696)

*"The Fair Jilt"
*"Agnes de Castro"
*" Love-Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister " (1684)
*" Oroonoko " (1688)

*" Poems upon Several Occasions " (1684)

Biographies and writings based on her life

*cite book | title = The Passionate Shepherdess | author = Maureen Duffy | year = 1977 The first wholly scholarly new biography of Behn; the first to identify Behn's birth name.
*Angeline Goreau, "Reconstructing Aphra: a social biography of Aphra Behn" (New York: Dial Press, 1980). ISBN 0-8037-7478-8
*Angeline Goreau. "Aphra Behn: A scandal to modesty (c. 1640-1689)" in Spender, Dale (ed.) Feminist theorists: Three centuries of key women thinkers, Pantheon 1983, pp. 8-27 ISBN 0-394-53438-7.
*
* a biography concentrating on the political activism of Behn, with new material on her life as a spy.
*cite book | title = Aphra Behn - The Incomparable Astrea | author = Vita Sackville-West | year = 1927 | publisher = Gerald Howe A view of Behn more sympathetic and laudatory than Woolf's.
* One section deals with Behn, but it is a starting point for the feminist rediscovery of Behn's role.
*"What Is Triumph in Love? with a consideration of Aphra Behn", Nancy Huntting

* Hobby, Elaine. "Virtue of necessity: English women's writing 1649-88". University of Michigan 1989
* Summers, Montague (ed.). "Aphra Behn: Works". London 1913
* Lewcock, Dawn. "Aphra Behn studies: More for seeing than hearing: Behn and the use of theatre". Ed. Todd, Janet. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996.
* Steen, Francis F. "The Politics of Love: Propaganda and Structural Learning in Aphra Behn's Love-Letters between a Nobleman and His Sister." Poetics Today 23.1 (2002) 91-122. Project Muse. 19 Nov. 2007. [ [http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/poetics_today/v023/23.1steen.html Project MUSE ] ]
* Todd, Janet. "The Critical Fortunes of Aphra Behn." Columbia: Camden House, 1998. 69-72.

* [http://aberdeen.ac.uk/cems/graphics/womens_writing.jpgPortrait from University of Aberdeen ]
*gutenberg author|id=Aphra_Behn|name=Aphra Behn
* [http://www.poetsgraves.co.uk/behn.htm Aphra Behn's Grave, Westminster Abbey ]
* [http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au/b/behn/aphra University of Adelaide biography and etexts ] (a source for the list of works)
* [http://www.lit-arts.net/Behn/ The Aphra Behn page at list-arts.net ]
* [http://www.sukipot.com/angellica/ The Sign of Angellica: An Aphra Behn Site ]
* [http://www.classicistranieri.com/english/indexes/authb.htm The Complete Works of Aphra Behn ] on e-book
* [http://people04.albion.edu/jts10/dp/ Some of Behn's minor poems ]

Persondata
NAME=Behn, Aphra
ALTERNATIVE NAMES=
SHORT DESCRIPTION=Author
DATE OF BIRTH= July 10. 1640
PLACE OF BIRTH= England
DATE OF DEATH= April 16. 1689
PLACE OF DEATH=

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Aphra Behn — (* 10. Juli 1640 in Wye, Kent, Großbritannien; † 16. April 1689 in London; gebürtige Aphra Johnson) war eine englische Schriftstellerin und die erste bekannte Frau in der Geschichte der englischen Literatur, die sich mit Schreiben ihren… … Deutsch Wikipedia

Aphra Behn — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Aphra Behn Aphra Behn (Wye, Kent, 1640 Londres, 16 de abril de 1689), escritora y espía británica. Contenido … Wikipedia Español

Aphra Behn — [Aphra Behn] (1640–89) an English writer of plays, novels and poems. She was probably the first professional woman writer in England. Her best known works include the play The Rover (1678) and the novel Oroonoko (1688), an attack on ↑slavery … Useful english dictionary

Aphra Behn — (Wye, Kent, 1640 Londres, 16 de abril 1689), escritora y espía británica … Enciclopedia Universal

Aphra Behn — Esquisse d’un portrait d’Aphra Behn. fr … Wikipédia en Français

Aphra Behn — Amor El amor cesa de ser un placer cuando deja de ser secreto. Dinero El dinero habla un lenguaje que entienden todas las naciones. Diversidad La variedad es el alma del placer … Diccionario de citas

Behn — steht für das Museum Behnhaus in Lübeck die Kurzform des Spirituosenherstellers Behn (Spirituosen) Behn ist der Familiennamen folgender Personen: Aphra Behn (1640–1689), englische Schriftstellerin Ari Behn (* 1972), norwegischer Autor Carl… … Deutsch Wikipedia

Behn — is a family name and may refer to:* Aphra Behn, a prolific dramatist of the English Restoration * Ari Behn, an author married to Princess Märtha Louise of Norway * The Behn Brothers, founders of the Puerto Rico Telephone: ** Hernan Behn **… … Wikipedia

Aphra — f English: of uncertain origin, perhaps an Anglicization of an Irish name; see AFRICA (SEE Africa), EITHRIG (SEE Eithrig). It could also be a hypercorrected spelling of a Late Latin name, Afra. This was originally an ethnic name for a woman from… … First names dictionary

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Aphra_Behn: definition of Aphra_Behn and synonyms of Aphra_Behn (English)

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definition - Aphra_Behn Aphra Behn

16 April 1689 (aged 48)

Aphra Behn (baptised 14 December 1640 – 16 April 1689) was a prolific dramatist of the English Restoration and was one of the first English professional female writers. Her writing contributed to the amatory fiction genre of British literature. Along with Delarivier Manley and Eliza Haywood. she is sometimes referred to as part of "The fair triumvirate of wit ."

Contents Early life

One of the first English women to earn her livelihood by authorship, [ 1 ] Behn's life is difficult to unravel and relate. Information regarding her, especially her early life, is scant, but she was almost certainly born in or near Canterbury to Bartholomew Johnson, a barber, and Elizabeth Denham. The two were married in 1638 and Aphra, or Eaffry. was baptized on 14 December 1640 in Harbledown. a village just outside Canterbury. Elizabeth Denham was employed as a nurse to the wealthy Colepeper family, who lived locally, which means that it is likely that Aphra grew up with and spent time with the family's children. The younger child, Thomas Colepeper. later described Aphra as his foster sister.

In 1663 she visited an English sugar colony on the Suriname River. on the coast east of Venezuela (a region later known as Suriname ). During this trip she is supposed to have met an African slave leader, whose story formed the basis for one of her most famous works, Oroonoko . widely credited as the book which first brought home to England a sense of the horrors of slavery. [ citation needed ] The veracity of her journey to Suriname has often been called into question; however, enough evidence has been found to convince most Behn scholars today that the trip did indeed take place. [ citation needed ]

Though little is really known about Behn’s early years, evidence suggests that she may have had a Catholic upbringing. She once admitted that she was "designed for a nun" and the fact that she had so many Catholic connections, such as Henry Neville who was later arrested, would certainly have aroused suspicions during the anti-Catholic fervor of the 1680s (Goreau 243). Her sympathy to the Catholics is further demonstrated by her dedication of her play "The Rover II" to the Catholic Duke of York who had been exiled for the second time (247).

Behn was firmly dedicated to the restored King Charles II. As political parties first emerged during this time, Behn was a Tory supporter. Tories believed in absolute allegiance to the king, who governed by divine right (246). Behn often used her writings to attack the parliamentary Whigs claiming "In public spirits call’d, good o’ th’ Commonwealth…So tho’ by different ways the fever seize…in all ’tis one and the same mad disease." This was Behn’s reproach to parliament which had denied the king funds. Like most Tories, Behn was distrustful of Parliament and Whigs since the Revolution and wrote propaganda in support of the restored monarchy (248).

Life in England, writing career, work as a spy

A sketch of Aphra Behn by George Scharf from a portrait believed to be lost.

Shortly after her return to England in 1664 Aphra Johnson married Johan Behn, who was a merchant of German or Dutch extraction. Little conclusive information is known about their marriage, but it did not last for more than a few years since her husband died soon. [ 2 ]

By 1666 Behn had become attached to the Court, possibly through the influence of Thomas Culpepper and other associates of influence, where she was recruited as a political spy to Antwerp by Charles II. Her code name for her exploits is said to have been Astrea. a name under which she subsequently published much of her writings. The Second Anglo-Dutch War had broken out between England and the Netherlands in 1665. [ 2 ] Her chief business was to establish an intimacy with William Scott, son of Thomas Scott. the regicide who had been executed 17 October, 1660, since William was ready to become a spy in the English service and to report on the doings of the English exiles who were plotting against the King. [ 2 ]

Behn's exploits were not profitable, however, as Charles was slow in paying (if he paid at all) for either her services or her expenses whilst abroad. Money had to be borrowed for Behn to return to London. where a year's petitioning of Charles for payment went unheard, and she ended up in a debtor's prison. By 1669 an undisclosed source had paid Behn's debts, and she was released from prison, starting from this point to become one of the first women who wrote for a living. She cultivated the friendship of various playwrights, and starting in 1670 she produced many plays and novels, as well as poems and pamphlets. Her most popular works included The Rover . Love-Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister . and Oroonoko . In 1688, the year before her death, she published A Discovery of New Worlds . a translation of a French popularisation of astronomy, Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes . by Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle. written as a novel in a form similar to her own work, but with her new, thoughtful, religiously-oriented preface.

Aphra Behn died on 16 April 1689, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Below the inscription on her tombstone read the words: "Here lies a Proof that Wit can never be / Defence enough against Mortality. " [ 3 ] She was quoted as once stating that she had led a "life dedicated to pleasure and poetry." [ 4 ]

Status among other writers

In author Virginia Woolf 's reckoning, Behn's total career is more important than any particular work it produced. Woolf wrote, "All women together, ought to let flowers fall upon the grave of Aphra Behn. for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds." [ 5 ] Vita Sackville-West called Behn "'an inhabitant of Grub Street with the best of them. a phenomenon never seen and. furiously resented.' She was, as Felix Shelling said, 'a very gifted woman, compelled to write for bread in an age in which literature. catered habitually to the lowest and most depraved of human inclinations. Her success depended upon her ability to write like a man.'. She was, as Edmund Gosse remarked, 'the George Sand of the Restoration ,' and she lived the Bohemian life in London in the seventeenth century as George Sand lived it in Paris in the nineteenth." (Entry on Behn in British Authors Before 1800: A Biographical Dictionary Ed. Stanley Kunitz and Howard Haycraft. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1952. pg. 36.)

Ironically then, it was after a hiatus in the 19th century (when both the writer and the work were dismissed as indecent) that Behn's fame underwent an extraordinary revival. She dominates cultural-studies discourse as both a topic and a set of texts. Much early criticism emphasized her unusual status as a female writer in a male-dominated literary world; more recent criticism has offered more thorough discussions of her works. [ 6 ]

In an age of libertines, Behn undertook a rebellious approach to proclaim and to analyze women's sexual desire, as manifested in her characters and in herself. She has since become a favorite among sexually liberated women, many of bisexual or lesbian orientation, who proclaim her as one of their most positive influences. [ citation needed ]

Today, the affinities between Behn's work and that of Romantic writers seem more pronounced than the different level of publicly acceptable discussion of sexuality. [ 7 ] According to scholars,

Behn's writings unveil the homosocial role of male rivalry in stimulating heterosexual desire for women and explores the ways in which cross dressing and masquerade complicate and destabilize gender relations. Behn also analyzes female friendships and, more rarely, lesbianism. [ 7 ]

In several volumes of writings by author Janet Todd. Behn's explorations of some of the key issues in Romantic studies, such as the role of incestuous and homosocial bonding in romance, the correlations between racial and gender oppression, female subjectivity, and, more specifically, female political and sexual agency are detailed. [ 7 ]

The noted critic Harold Bloom calls Behn a "fourth-rate playwright" (in comparison, however, to Shakespeare) and notes her resurgent popularity as a case of "dumbing down ". [ 8 ]

Another of her critics was Alexander Pope. against whom she has been defended. [ citation needed ]

Her exploits as a spy, and the misuse of the intelligence she gathered is alluded to in Patrick O'Brian 's novel Desolation Island .

She also appears as a fictional character in volume 4 The Magic Labyrinth and volume 5 Gods of Riverworld of the series Riverworld by the science fiction writer Phillip Jose Farmer .

Plays

Source:

dictionary.sensagent.com

Aphra Behn Explained

Aphra Behn Explained

novelist, dramatist, poet

Aphra Behn [Aphara] (; 14 December 1640? – 16 April 1689) was a British playwright, poet, translator and fiction writer from the Restoration era. As one of the first English women to earn her living by her writing, she broke cultural barriers and served as a literary role model for later generations of women authors. Rising from obscurity, she came to the notice of Charles II. who employed her as a spy in Antwerp. Upon her return to London and a probablebrief stay in debtors' prison, she began writing for the stage. She belonged to a coterie of poets and famous libertines such as John Wilmot, Lord Rochester. She wrote under the pastoral pseudonym Astrea. During the turbulent political times of the Exclusion Crisis. she wrote an epilogue and prologue that brought her into legal trouble; she thereafter devoted most of her writing to prose genres and translations. A staunch supporter of the Stuart line, she declined an invitation from Bishop Burnet to write a welcoming poem to the new king William III. She died shortly after. [1]

She is famously remembered in Virginia Woolf 's A Room of One's Own . "All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn which is, most scandalously but rather appropriately, in Westminster Abbey. for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds." [2] Her grave is not included in the Poets' Corner but lies in the East Cloister near the steps to the church. [3]

Life and work Versions of her early life

Information regarding Behn's life is scant, especially regarding her early years. This may be due to intentional obscuring on Behn's part. One version of Behn's life tells that she was born to a barber named John Amis and his wife Amy. [4] Another story has Behn born to a couple named Cooper. [4] The Histories And Novels of the Late Ingenious Mrs. Behn (1696) states that Behn was born to Bartholomew Johnson, a barber, and Elizabeth Denham, a wet-nurse. [4] [5] Colonel Thomas Colepeper, the only person who claimed to have known her as a child, wrote in Adversaria that she was born at "Sturry or Canterbury" to a Mr Johnson and that she had a sister named Frances. [1] Another contemporary, Anne Finch, wrote that Behn was born in Wye in Kent. the "Daughter to a Barber". [1] In some accounts the profile of her father fits Eaffrey Johnson. [1]

Behn was born during the buildup of the English Civil War. a child of the political tensions of the time. One version of Behn's story has her travelling with Bartholomew Johnson to Surinam. He was said to die on the journey, with his wife and children spending some months in the country, though there is no evidence of this. [4] During this trip Behn said she met an African slave leader, whose story formed the basis for one of her most famous works, Oroonoko . [4] [5] It is possible that she acted a spy in the colony. [1] There is little verifiable evidence to confirm any one story. [4] In Oroonoko Behn gives herself the position of narrator and her first biographer accepted the assumption that Behn was the daughter of the lieutenant general of Surinam, as in the story. There is little evidence that this was the case, and none of her contemporaries acknowledge any aristocratic status. [1] [4] There is also no evidence that Oroonoko existed as an actual person or that any such slave revolt. as is featured in the story, really happened.

Writer Germaine Greer has called Behn "a palimpsest ; she has scratched herself out," and biographer Janet Todd noted that Behn "has a lethal combination of obscurity, secrecy and staginess which makes her an uneasy fit for any narrative, speculative or factual. She is not so much a woman to be unmasked as an unending combination of masks". It is notable that her name is not mentioned in tax or church records. During her lifetime she was also known as Ann Behn, Mrs Bean, agent 160 and Astrea.

Career

Shortly after her supposed return to England from Surinam in 1664, Behn may have married Johan Behn (also written as Johann and John Behn). He may have been a merchant of German or Dutch extraction, possibly from Hamburg. [4] He died or the couple separated soon after 1664, however from this point the writer used the moniker "Mrs Behn" as her professional name. [5]

Behn may have had a Catholic upbringing. She once commented that she was "designed for a nun," and the fact that she had so many Catholic connections, such as Henry Neville who was later arrested for his Catholicism, would have aroused suspicions during the anti-Catholic fervour of the 1680s. [6] She was a monarchist, and her sympathy for the Stuarts, and particularly for the Catholic Duke of York may be demonstrated by her dedication of her play The Rover II to him after he had been exiled for the second time. [6] Behn was dedicated to the restored King Charles II. As political parties emerged during this time, Behn became a Tory supporter. [6]

By 1666 Behn had become attached to the court, possibly through the influence of Thomas Culpeper and other associates. The Second Anglo-Dutch War had broken out between England and the Netherlands in 1665, and she was recruited as a political spy in Antwerp on behalf of King Charles II, possibly under the auspices of courtier Thomas Killigrew. [1] [4] [5] This is the first well-documented account we have of her activities. Her code name is said to have been Astrea. a name under which she later published many of her writings. [4] Her chief role was to establish an intimacy with William Scot, son of Thomas Scot. a regicide who had been executed in 1660. Scot was believed to be ready to become a spy in the English service and to report on the doings of the English exiles who were plotting against the King. Behn arrived in Bruges in July 1666, probably with two others, as London was wracked with plague and fire. Behn's job was to turn Scot into a double agent. but there is evidence that Scot betrayed her to the Dutch. [1]

Behn's exploits were not profitable however; the cost of living shocked her, and she was left unprepared. One month after arrival, she pawned her jewellry. King Charles was slow in paying (if he paid at all), either for her services or for her expenses whilst abroad. Money had to be borrowed so that Behn could return to London, where a year's petitioning of Charles for payment was unsuccessful. It may be that she was never paid by the crown. A warrant was issued for her arrest, but there is no evidence it was served or that she went to prison for her debt, though apocryphally it is often given as part of her history. [1] [7]

Forced by debt and her husband's death, Behn began to work for the King's Company and the Duke's Company players as a scribe. She had, however, written poetry up until this point. [4] The theatres that had been closed under Cromwell were now re-opening under Charles II, plays enjoying a revival. Her first play, The Forc’d Marriage, was staged in 1670, followed by The Amorous Prince (1671). After her third play, The Dutch Lover, failed, Behn falls off the public record for three years. It is speculated that she went travelling again, possibly in her capacity as a spy. [7] She gradually moved towards comic works, which proved more commercially successful. [5] Her most popular works included The Rover and Love-Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister (1684–87).

Behn became friends with notable writers of the day, including John Dryden. Elizabeth Barry. John Hoyle. Thomas Otway and Edward Ravenscroft. and was acknowledged as a part of the circle of the Earl of Rochester. [1] [7] Behn often used her writings to attack the parliamentary Whigs claiming, "In public spirits call’d, good o’ th' Commonwealth. So tho' by different ways the fever seize. in all ’tis one and the same mad disease." This was Behn's reproach to parliament which had denied the king funds. [6]

Last years

In 1688, in the year before her death, she published A Discovery of New Worlds. a translation of a French popularisation of astronomy. Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes . by Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle. written as a novel in a form similar to her own work, but with her new, religiously oriented preface.

In all she would write and stage 19 plays, contribute to more, and become one of the first prolific, high-profile female dramatists in Britain. [1] During the 1670s and 1680s she was one of the most productive playwrights in Britain, second only to Poet Laureate John Dryden. In her last four years, Behn's health began to fail, beset by poverty and debt, but she continued to write ferociously, though it became increasingly hard for her to hold a pen. In her final days, she wrote the translation of the final book of Abraham Cowley ’s Six Books of Plants. She died on 16 April 1689, and was buried in the East Cloister Westminster Abbey. The inscription on her tombstone reads: "Here lies a Proof that Wit can never beDefence enough against Mortality." [8] She was quoted as stating that she had led a "life dedicated to pleasure and poetry." [1] [7] [9]

Behn was mocked for her bawdy works and for writing in a masculine style, but she did also have widespread support. Authors such as Dryden, Thomas Otway. Nahum Tate. Jacob Tonson. Nathaniel Lee and Thomas Creech celebrated her work. [7]

Critical reputation

Behn is now regarded as a key dramatist of the seventeenth-century theatre, [4] and her prose work is critically acknowledged as having been important to the development of the English novel. [5] She is perhaps best known to modern audiences for her short novel Oroonoko (1688), the tale of an enslaved African prince. It is notable for its exploration of slavery, race, and gender. [5]

Behn was immensely prolific, writing plays, fiction and poetry, and translating works from French. She caused scandal in some of her chosen subject matter, often alluding to sexual desire. She was aware, and stated that, the works would not have caused problems if they had been written by a man. [4] [5] [10] Behn's work frequently takes homoerotic themes, featuring same-sex love between women. One of her best known poems, "The Disappointment ", is the story of a sexual encounter told from a woman's point of view that may be interpreted as a work about male impotence. [4]

All women together, ought to let flowers fall upon the grave of Aphra Behn. for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds. Behn proved that money could be made by writing at the sacrifice, perhaps, of certain agreeable qualities; and so by degrees writing became not merely a sign of folly and a distracted mind but was of practical importance. [11]

Following the death of Behn, new female dramatists such as 'Ariadne', Delarivier Manley. Mary Pix. Susanna Centlivre and Catherine Trotter acknowledged Behn as their most vital predecessor, who opened up public space for women writers. [1] During the 19th century, both the writer and her works were ignored or dismissed as indecent. [1] Victorian-era novelist and critic Julia Kavanagh wrote that, "the disgrace of Aphra Behn is that, instead of raising man to woman's moral standard, [she] sank woman to the level of man's coarseness". Nineteenth century commentator John Doran wrote that her work wallowed in the moral morass. [12]

In the 20th century, however, Behn's fame underwent a revival. Montague Summers ,an author of scholarly works on the English drama of the 17th century, published a six-volume collection of her work, in hopes of rehabilitating her reputation. Felix Schelling wrote in The Cambridge History of English Literature. that she was "a very gifted woman, compelled to write for bread in an age in which literature. catered habitually to the lowest and most depraved of human inclinations," and that, "Her success depended upon her ability to write like a man." Edmund Gosse remarked that she was, ". the George Sand of the Restoration". [13]

Behn is now regarded as a key English playwright and a major figure in Restoration theatre. [1] [14] George Woodcock regarded Behn as an important influence on the development of the novel, stating "It is as a founder of the school of realistic novel-writing that Mrs. Behn is perhaps most important." [15] Authors such as Janet Todd detail Behn's unique exploration of race, gender and sexual agency. However, critic Harold Bloom calls Behn a "fourth-rate playwright" and cites the current appearance of her work as set texts in American schools as a case of "dumbing down." [16]

Todd argues that, in addition to patriarchal prejudice, Behn suffered for her dismissal of any liberal agenda. Going against the tide of the times, she believed in the divine right of kings and aristocratic hierarchies. Todd writes that Behn was contemptuous of democracy and the common man in the street, not expressly interested in human rights — for women or slaves or anyone else — and that, because she did not support any kind of a liberal agenda, her causes were not cheered by the progressives. [12] She does not easily fit into any mould of proto-feminism. She had come into adulthood, following the English Civil War. under the harsh puritan rule of the Restoration, and regarded political populism as a sign of moral collapse and the triumph of venality.

Ironically, the current revival of her reputation rides on the work Oroonoko (1688), a story that is taken to promote modern, progressive views on gender, race and class. Todd maintains that the fiction has been co-opted by modern interests and that such views are not views that Behn clearly expressed. [12] Her reputation is not helped by the fact that almost nothing is known of her first 27 years; and while she was a pioneer, she also faced debt for much of her life and was a propagandist and writer for hire. She was ambitious, desiring fame and literary prestige, which for a woman of the time and in times since, is often regarded as suspect. [12]

In fiction

Behn's life has been adapted for the stage in the 2014 play Empress of the Moon: The Lives of Aphra Behn by Chris Braak and the 2015 play [exit Mrs Behn] or, The Leo Play by Christopher VanderArk. [17] She is one of the characters in the 2010 play Or, by Liz Duffy Adams. [18] [19] Behn appears as a character in Daniel O'Mahony 's Newtons Sleep . in Phillip Jose Farmer 's The Magic Labyrinth and Gods of Riverworld and Molly Brown's Invitation to a Funeral (1999). She is referred to in Patrick O'Brian 's novel Desolation Island .

Works Plays Novels Short stories Poetry collections
  • Poems upon Several Occasions, with A Voyage to the Island of Love (1684) [5]
  • Lycidus; or, The Lover in Fashion (1688) [5]
Biographies and writings based on her life
  • Book: The Passionate Shepherdess. Maureen Duffy. 1977. The first wholly scholarly new biography of Behn; the first to identify Behn's birth name.
  • Book: Goreau, Angeline. 1980. Reconstructing Aphra: a social biography of Aphra Behn. Dial Press. New York. 0-8037-7478-8.
  • Book: Goreau, Angeline. Aphra Behn: A scandal to modesty (c. 1640-1689). Spender, Dale. Feminist theorists: Three centuries of key women thinkers. Pantheon. 1983. 8–27. 0-394-53438-7.
  • Book: The Theatre of Aphra Behn. Derek Hughes. 2001. Palgrave Macmillan. 0-333-76030-1.
  • Book: The Secret Life of Aphra Behn. Janet Todd. 1997. Rutgers University Press. 0-8135-2455-5. Most recent and comprehensively researched biography of Behn, with new material on her life as a spy.
  • Book: Aphra Behn - The Incomparable Astrea. Vita Sackville-West. 1927. Gerald Howe. A view of Behn more sympathetic and laudatory than Woolf's.
  • Book: A Room of One's Own. Virginia Woolf. 1929. One section deals with Behn, but it is a starting point for the feminist rediscovery of Behn's role.
  • Web site: Huntting. Nancy. What Is Triumph in Love? with a consideration of Aphra Behn .
  • Book: Slip-Shod Sibyls. Germaine Greer. 1995. Two chapters deal with Aphra Behn with emphasis on her character as a poet
  • Book: Rereading Aphra Behn: History, Theory, and Criticism. Heidi Hutner. University of Virginia Press. 1993. 9780813914435.
Sources
  • Book: Todd, Janet. 2013. The Secret Life of Aphra Behn. Bloomsbury. 9781448212545.
Further reading
  • Summers, Montague (ed.). Aphra Behn: Works. London 1913.
  • Hobby, Elaine. Virtue of necessity: English women's writing 1649-88. University of Michigan 1989
  • Lewcock, Dawn. Aphra Behn studies: More for seeing than hearing: Behn and the use of theatre. Ed. Todd, Janet. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1996.
  • Brockhaus, Cathrin, Aphra Behn und ihre Londoner Komödien: Die Dramatikerin und ihr Werk im England des ausgehenden 17. Jahrhunderts. 1998.
  • Book: Todd, Janet. The critical fortunes of Aphra Behn. 69–72. Camden House. Columbia, SC. 1998. 9781571131652.
  • Steen. Francis F. The Politics of Love: Propaganda and Structural Learning in Aphra Behn's Love-Letters between a Nobleman and His Sister. Poetics Today. Spring 2002. 23. 1. 91–122. 10.1215/03335372-23-1-91.
  • Book: Owens, W. R. Shakespeare, Aphra Behn, and the canon. Routledge in association with the Open University. New York. 1996. 9780415135757.
  • Behn, Aphra. 3.
  • Behn, Afra. Edmund. Gosse. 4.
  • Gainor, J. Ellen, Stanton B. Garner, Jr. and Martin Puchner. The Norton Anthology of Drama. ISBN 9780393921519
External links Notes and References
  1. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/1961 Janet Todd
  2. Book: Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One's Own. Harcourt Brace. 1929. 326933. New York. 69.
  3. Web site: Westminster Abbey. 2015. 30 October 2015. Westminster Abbey.
  4. Web site: Aphra Behn. Stiebel. Arlene. Poetry Foundation. 30 October 2015.
  5. Web site: Aphra Behn. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 30 October 2015.
  6. Book: Goreau, Angeline. 1980. Reconstructing Aphra: A Social Biography of Aphra Behn. Dial Press. 0-8037-7478-8.
  7. Book: The Cambridge Companion to Aphra Behn. 2004. Derek Hughes, Janet Todd. Cambridge University. 1–10. 9780521527200.
  8. Web site: Aphra Behn. Cameron Self, Poets' Graves. 30 October 2015.
  9. Web site: 17th Century Women. University of Calgary. 30 October 2015.
  10. Web site: Aphra Behn (1640 - 1689). BBC History. 30 October 2015.
  11. [Virginia Woolf|Woolf, Virginia]
  12. Todd, Janet (2013) The Secret Life of Aphra Behn; Rutgers University Press; ISBN 9780813524559
  13. Book: British Authors Before 1800: A Biographical Dictionary. Stanley Kunitz and Howard Haycraft. New York. H.W. Wilson. 1952. 36.
  14. Book: Walters, Margaret. Feminism: A very short introduction. Oxford University. 2005. 24. 0-19-280510-X.
  15. Book: Woodcock, George. The Incomparable Aphra. London. T. V. Boardman. 1948. 238. 2352117.
  16. News: Dumbing down American readers. The Boston Globe. Harold. Bloom. 24 September 2003.
  17. Web site: [exit Mrs Behn] or, The Leo Play - FRINGE FEST EVENT]. https://web.archive.org/web/20150121055436/https://www.eventbrite.com/e/exit-mrs-behn-or-the-leo-play-fringe-fest-event-tickets-15128902956?ref=wpevent. 2015-01-20. yes.
  18. Book: Adams, Liz Duffy. Or. 9780822224587. Dramatists Play Service. 2010.
  19. News: All They Need Is Love (and Freedom and Theater). Charles. Isherwood. NY Times. review. 9 November 2009.
  20. Web site: The Widow Ranter. Behn. Aphra. 1690.

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