Writing Women: 1680-1800 Women as authors and as subject (literary, political, domestic) during the long eighteenth century.
Women were disenfranchised in many ways in eighteenth-century Britain. Women were seldom permitted to own property outright, to earn money, to exercise primary custody over their children, or to live alone; they were denied legal representation, educational attainment, bodily self-determination, and other rights which we now consider to be basic indices of adulthood and responsible citizenship. Being a woman was, for most, a state of dependency and enclosure.
In this course, we shall carefully consider how some members of the female underclass in eighteenth-century Britain made their voices heard. We’ll consider works produced by (and occasionally, about) British women between the Restoration of Charles II in 1660 and the end of the eighteenth century, taking in examples from several genres, including prose fiction, drama, poetry, and expository writing. We shall consider relations between women's imaginative writing and the many worlds from which women were largely excluded — the worlds of inherited literary tradition, commerce, religious debate, and contemporary politics, to name a few — as well as women’s writing about the subjects they were assumed to know best: child-raising, courtship, housekeeping, and personal piety.
The most important requirement in this course will be thorough reading of each assigned selection before class. Please take notes and be prepared to discuss particular language and rhetorical strategies, not merely plots and characterizations. The course will combine lectures and group discussions, class presentations, occasional quizzes, library research, and writing projects. Primary authors are likely to include Behn, Rochester, Philips, Haywood, Pope, Manley, Barker, Richardson, and Burney.