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date: 18 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the intermingling of rhetorical theory, educational training in Latin grammar and rhetoric, and literary representations that designate bodies, texts, genres, figures, and tropes as “male,” “female,” and/or “epicene” (of common gender). Arguing that a tripartite rather than binary scheme is appropriate to early modern British literature and culture, the chapter historicizes Jacques Lacan’s abstract psychoanalytic claims about the “Symbolic Order” by examining language games, community practices, and social texts at work in literary texts that translate classical rhetorical training into vernacular literary practice. Focusing on William Shakespeare, John Webster, and George Gascoigne, the chapter explores the vogue for Ovidian cross-voicing in light of grammar school training in prosopopoeia and impersonation. Along the way it analyzes many examples of literary imitatio in which a male/female binary distinction collapses and rhetoric’s translation into literary invention is rendered legible in epicene figures that defy easy categorization.

Keywords: rhetoric, grammar, education, gender, tropes, figures, prosopopoeia, imitatio, invention, Shakespeare

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