Archipelagic Coterie Space: Katherine Philips and Welsh Women’s Writing

Sarah Prescott, Aberystwyth University
Vol. 33, No. 2 (Fall 2014), 51-76

The mid-seventeenth-century poet Katherine Philips is a key figure in the history of early women’s writing. She is well-known for her friendship poetry, her literary coteries, her Royalist loyalty, and the extensive evidence her work provides of women’s engagement in manuscript literary culture. In contrast to previous work on Philips, which has viewed her as an Englishwoman in exile, this essay takes the fact that the poet lived in Wales for the majority of her literary career as its starting point for a reassessment of her poetry and her significance as an Anglophone Welsh writer. In its re-evaluation of Philips and her work, the essay challenges the binary models of core/periphery and center/ margin inherited from postcolonial theory by proposing a methodological combination of archipelagic literary criticism and geographical concepts of relational space. By moving away from constructions of place, space, and nation as fixed entities towards a more fluid archipelagic understanding of Philips’s coterie and poetic practice, it is possible not only to rethink Philips as a Welsh writer but also to contest some of the dominant paradigms of women’s literary history that associate the local and the domestic with a gendered sense of feminine retreat.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]