The life, work and history of Aphra Behn: seventeenth century dramatist, poet of the erotic and bisexual, novelist, political propagandist, spy.
Praise for the first hardback edition:
Fascinating scholarship. Todd conveys Behn's vivacious character and the mores of the time.” the New York Times
Ground-breakingit reads quickly and lightly. Even Todd’s throwaway lines are steeped in learning and observation.” Ruth Perry, MIT, Women’s Review of Books
A major biography; of interest to everyone who cares about women as writers.” Times Higher Education Supplement
Fascinating, a page-turner and a delight, an astonishingly thorough book.” Emma Donoghue
All women together ought to let flowers fall on the tomb of Aphra Behn. . . . For it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.” Virginia Woolf
Aphra Behn, a spy in the Netherlands and the Americas, was the first professional woman writer. The most prolific dramatist of her age, innovative novelist, translator, lyrical and erotic poet, she expresses a frank sexuality addressing impotence, orgasm and bisexuality, whilst serving as political propagandist for the monarch.
This revised biography of the extraordinary, ground-breaking writer, who is emblematic of the Restoration period, a time of masks and self-fashioning, is set in conflict-ridden England, Europe, and in the mismanaged slave colonies, following the Puritan republic in 1660.
Janet Todd, novelist and internationally renowned scholar, was President of Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge, and a Professor at Rutgers, NJ. An expert on women’s writing and feminism, she has published on many writers, including Jane Austen, the Shelley Circle, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Aphra Behn.
Shelf Awareness (07/21/2017):
Aphra Behn was a 17th-century playwright, poet, translator, propagandist and spy, and one of the first English women successfully to support herself as a professional writer. She was an iconoclast who expressed many radical political, religious and sexual ideas through her work. Aphra Behn: A Secret Life is a revised and updated reissue of the 1996 biography by Janet Todd (A Man of Genius), the British scholar, biographer and novelist.
Behn is a tricky subject for any biographer. Very little was written about her by anyone who knew her. As a professional artist, she intentionally invented and hid behind her public image. Todd calls her "a lethal combination of obscurity, secrecy and staginess... not so much a woman to be unmasked as an unending combination of masks and intrigue." In addition, despite her many radical convictions, she was a strongly anti-democratic Royalist, and her ideas did not line up neatly with modern definitions of social liberalism or feminism. However, Todd thoroughly understands the particular cultural and political environment of the Restoration. She traces a convincing and entertaining path through the likely events of Behn's life in the vivid context of her times, examining the evidence and alternatives for every possibility and providing close readings of her works. Her approach creates an effective mixture of historical research, literary criticism and fiction that brings us as close as we may ever get to the truth of this enterprising and enigmatic literary figure. COPYRIGHT(2017) Shelf Awareness, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.