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British Women and the Profession of Letters, 1760-1835

ENGL 751.401
instructor(s):
R 9-12

I am hoping to conceptualize this course as a true seminar that will directly reflect the interests and needs of its members and in which we will work as an exploratory intellectual cooperative. Therefore, at this point I have very few concerns of my own to obtrude on it. In general, I want to get beyond the customary repertory of novels and poetry since the burden of this course should be the large dynamics of its rubric: how women moved into the center of the British publishing world and what they did there. My opening date accords with the formation of the Bluestocking salon and the closing date coincides with the death of Felicia Hemans, the most successful woman writer in British history up to that point. Thus, we can use this opportunity to explore the often neglected genres in which women wrote, among which might be biography, children's writing, conduct and educational books, drama (both comedy and tragedy), history, politics, religion, travel narratives, etc. We might be interested in taking some time to focus on women's roles as editors : e.g. Barbauld's edition of Akenside (1795), or the major canon-forming compilations of Barbauld's British Novelists (1810) and Inchbald's British Theatre (1806-9). We could even try to get a sense of how a woman might function as publishers by concentrating on the activities of Mary Jane Clairmont whose Juvenile Library kept the improvident Godwin household afloat for many years.

Therefore, I would like to have an early sense of those who might want to participate in this seminar, and with that I actively encourage suggestions for texts or areas of coverage. I'll start the ball rolling by localizing one interest of my own, which is how women became a conduit for the early ideals of the French Revolution, and suggesting that we could devote a couple of sessions to Charlotte Smith's novel Desmond (partially set in 1792's Paris) and Helen Maria Willia' Letters Written in France (1790-), both texts made available in paperback from Broadview Press in the last year. Please email me (curran@english.upenn.edu ) me with your suggestions before the end of November so I can put in book orders. 

Fulfills 2 & 5 requirements.