In Gender, Theatre and the Origins of Criticism, Marcie Frank explores the theoretical and literary legacy of John Dryden to a number of prominent women writers of the time. Frank examines the pre-eminence of gender, sexuality and the theatre in Dryden's critical texts that are predominantly rewritings of the work of his own literary precursors - Ben Jonson, Shakespeare and Milton. She proposes that Dryden develops a native literary tradition that is passed on as an inheritance to his heirs - Aphra Behn, Catharine Trotter, and Delarivier Manley - as well as their male contemporaries. Frank describes the development of criticism in the transition from a court-sponsored theatrical culture to one oriented toward a consuming public, with very different attitudes to gender and sexuality. This study also sets out to trace the historical origins of certain aspects of current criticism - the practices of paraphrase, critical self-consciousness and performativity.

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