Archipelagic Orinda? Katherine Philips and the Writing of Welsh Women’s Literary History



This essay engages in current debates concerning the writing of early modern women’s ‘archipelagic’ literary history with specific reference to the 17th-century poet Katherine Philips (1632–1664), known as the ‘matchless Orinda’. Taking into account literary scholarship on both women’s writing and British studies, the essay argues that both Wales and Anglophone Welsh women writers need to be incorporated into the debate if we are to have a genuinely inclusive archipelagic picture of early modern literary practices. The essay asks in what ways Katherine Philips can be discussed as a Welsh writer in an archipelagic frame and how this reassessment might impact on how we read her poetry. Further areas of investigation opened up by taking Katherine Philips as a case study include the extent to which Anglophone and Welsh women writers can be compared in the early modern period. The conclusion raises the possibility that there may have been little contact between the two literatures of Wales as practiced by early modern women writers.