This article addresses Lucy Hutchinson’s Order and Disorder, an epic, twenty-canto retelling of Genesis. Scholars have often considered Hutchinson’s poem an inferior version of Paradise Lost insofar as it does not transgress biblical narrative. Attending to the poem’s portrayal of childbearing in relation to seventeenth-century birthing prayers and affect theory, this article demonstrates how Hutchinson’s figuration of the body belies any notion of her poem as “Christian cliché.” The article argues that the political value of Order and Disorder stems not from Hutchinson’s depiction of motherhood as a prototype of self-possessed, liberal political agency, but from her account of affective feeling as unbinding woman from any fixed position or category. Finally, the article shows how Hutchinson’s depiction of childbearing, as an ongoing process rather than a teleological event, parallels her understanding of both poetry and providence.
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Madeline Lesser; Unbinding the Maternal Body in Lucy Hutchinson’s Order and Disorder. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 1 May 2020; 50 (2): 377–402. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10829636-8219602
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