This dissertation explores manuscript translations made by four women of the English Renaissance and argues that these translations subvert dominant modes of discourse through the act of translation, both linguistic and inter-semiotic, and the performance of self/identity through the conventions of gift-giving. Mary Bassett (d. 1572), Jane Lumley (1537-1578), Jane Seager (fl. 1589), and Esther Inglis (1570/1-1624) each translated an existing printed text into English; each woman translated her source text on a linguistic level – from Greek, or Latin, or French into English – but also translated on an inter-semiotic level – from print to manuscript, sometimes with striking additions in terms of painting, drawing, needlework, calligraphy, and bindings. I argue that the late Renaissance offered a transitional moment in the conceptualization of translation and that each of these women recognized and exploited the ambiguities of translational authority during the period so as to maintain the ability to both claim and repudiate a politicized speaking voice.
The early modern women of this study make themselves visible through the materials and partatexts of their manuscripts and through established conventions of gifting and patronage. The particular intersection of translation and Renaissance gift-culture has been little studied, and I argue that Bassett, Lumley, Seager, and Inglis adroitly negotiate the rhetorics of translation and gift-culture in order to articulate political and religious affiliations and beliefs that were allowed no other public outlet. This particular set of translations has not previously been considered as a related group and as a whole this project offers a critical lens through which to read Renaissance translations in relation to the materiality of Renaissance gift culture.