Lady Mary Sidney Wroth’s The Countesse of Montgomery’s Urania (1621; c. 1626) is a sprawling, multi-faceted text that defies confinement within standard generic parameters. Sharing elements from the epic and romance traditions and interweaving poetry and prose sections, the Urania features a convoluted prose style that correlates with its author’s experimentation with a variety of stylistic and intellectual issues. The first extended prose piece published by a woman in English, the Urania explores a range of conflicting demands facing its characters, most of whom hold positions of power or authority. Its relatively idiosyncratic prose style, therefore, parallels its examination of numerous issues, ranging from personal and official identity formation; tensions between amorous desires and political responsibilities; intersections and diversions between geographical and ethnic affiliations; and other concerns regarding the roles and wishes of the narrative’s complex cast of characters. At the same time, it participates in early modern examinations of what came to be called nationalism, although Wroth’s text reflects what Philip Schwyzer calls ‘‘not the nation per se so much as the nation in potentia’’ (2004: 9). The Urania explores concepts of national identity, but frequently puts concerns of particular countries beneath more personal demands. This focus also places the Urania within a genre of writing discussed by Andrew Hadfield:

much early modern travel writing and colonial writing was written, in whole or in part, in order to participate in current pressing debates about the nature of society, the limitations of the existing constitution, the means of representing the populace at large, the relative distribution of power within the body politic, fear of foreign influences undermining English/British independence, the need to combat the success of other rival

nations, religious toleration and persecution, and the protection of individual liberty.