Aphra Behn

Also found in: Dictionary, Wikipedia.
Aphra Behn
Aphra Johnson
BirthplaceHarbledown, Kent
novelist, dramatist

Behn, Aphra

(ăf`rə bān, bēn), 1640–89, first professional female English author. Little is known of her early life, but there is evidence that c.1658 she married a London merchant of Dutch descent named Behn. After the death of her husband, Aphra Behn became an English spy in the Dutch Wars (1665–67), adopting the pseudonym Astrea, under which she later published much of her verse. Her career as a secret agent was unsuccessful, and she returned to England exhausted and penniless, forced even to serve time in debtors' prison. By 1670 her first play had been performed, and by 1677 she gained her much desired fame with the eminently successful production of The Rover. All her plays are noted for their broad, bawdy humor. Despite her success as a playwright, however, her best literary achievement can be found in her novels. The most notable of these is Oroonoko (1688), a heroical love story, the first philosophical novel in English. Aphra Behn was famous for her lifestyle as well as her works; her denial of woman's subservience to man and her high-living, bohemian existence has led critics to describe her as the George Sand of the Restoration and a forerunner of the feminist movement. Her literary reputation declined rapidly in the 18th cent., but Montague Summers's collected edition of her work (6 vol., 1915) revived an interest in her.


See biography by F. M. Link (1968); A. Goreau, Reconstructing Aphra: A Social History of Aphra Behn (1980).

References in periodicals archive ?
In chapter two, Gevirtz turns to Aphra Behn, arguing that Behn challenges the stability of the philosophic self on which the new science relied by emphasizing its constructed and performative nature.
It is clear that Aphra Behn is clearly projecting her colonialist agenda in Oroonoko trying to Europeanise Oroonoko and depicting him as someone who is attractive and familiar yet at the same time strange and exotic:
One of the first modern authors creating a fictive Aphra Behn in his novels was American science fiction writer Philip Jose Farmer.
Oroonoko is addressed in three essays in Aphra Behn and her Female Successors: "Between Saints' Lives and Novella: The Drama of Oroonoko, or, the Royal Slave (1688)" by Roy Eriksen, "From Aphra Behn to Anna Maria Falconbridge: Views of Eighteenth-Century West Africa" by Barbara Britton Wenner, and "Vocality, Subjectivity and Power in Oroonoko and Joan Anim-Addo's Imoinda" by Aspasia Velissariou.
She argues that scholarship so far has mostly focused on Aphra Behn and particularly on her comedies, while the contribution of other contemporary female dramatists to tragedy and tragicomedy has been neglected.
Including a nice balance of essays between established scholars and new researchers, this volume covers printed texts of a relatively small range of major writers from the mid-seventeenth century to the early eighteenth century: there are chapters on works by Mary Astell, Margaret Cavendish, Aphra Behn, Katherine Philips and Eliza Haywood.
en 1640) apunta Eve Gil: "De lo que no me cabe la menor duda, es de la enorme relevancia de esta mujer en el lento proceso de emancipacion femenina y, sobre todo, de la profesionalizacion de las escritoras pues, en efecto, Aphra Behn fue la primera dramaturga y narradora inglesa en ser remunerada por sus textos, aunque --
Even a brief glimpse at the table of contents is rather awe-inspiring, as it surveys a range of authors, including Samuel Richardson, Aphra Behn, Daniel Defoe, Herman Melville, Horace Walpole, Pauline Hopkins, Catherine Maria Sedgwick, George Eliot, Nella Larsen, and Virginia Woolf.
Nell Gwynne, et al Kelly Hutchinson King Charles, et al Andy Paris Aphra Behn Maggie Sift
But so do Rachel Speght, Aemilia Lanyer, Elizabeth Poole, Lucy Hutchinson, Margaret Cavendish, Mary Chudleigh, Aphra Behn and Mary Astell.
In part two, "Founding Fictions of Liberty," Doyle brings together paradigmatic transatlantic literary texts by Aphra Behn, Eliza Haywood, Samuel Richardson, Daniel Defoe, Susanna Rowson, William Hill Brown, Harriet Wilson, Olaudah Equiano, and Herman Melville.
Aphra Behn Stages the Social Scene in the Restoration Theatre