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Inventing the “Virgo Angla”: Power, Patronage, and Self-Representation in the Poetry of Elizabeth Jane Weston

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An individual’s self-presentation can leverage their place in the economy of social power: so suggest the patronage letters of Elizabeth Jane Weston (1582-1612), a young Neo-Latin poet in the court of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II. This paper examines how Weston adopted the persona of “Virgo Angla” (“The British Maiden”) and used conventionalized rhetorical techniques to navigate the power dynamics of patronage in the Neo-Latin Republic of Letters. Close readings of Weston’s letters explore how her self portrayal was a critical ingredient in her appeals to patronage: Weston portrayed herself in terms that emphasized her youth and gender, which she deployed in strategic modesty tropes and doubled discourses throughout her oeuvre. Ultimately, these close readings examine how Weston used her literary self-presentation to successfully play the patronage game, underscoring the notion that personal branding has currency in social power dynamics.
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