Gender, Sexuality, and Literature: Writing Women, 1660-1760
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 or travel 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 citizenship. Being a woman was, for most, a state of dependency and enclosure.
In this course, we shall carefully consider how eighteenth-century British women made their voices heard. We’ll consider works produced by (and occasionally, about) British women during the century that followed the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, taking in examples from several genres, including prose fiction, 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, and Richardson.