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EN912 Feminism and the Enlightenment

This module provides a wide-ranging introduction to ideas and representations of women in the British Enlightenment, and includes writings by and about women during the eighteenth century. It will explore how, over the course of more than a century between Aphra Behn and Jane Austen, femininity was understood and reconceived morally, politically and socially. The module will investigate those changes both in historical terms of social class, economic development and political revolution, and in relation to cultural developments such as the rise of the novel, the elaboration of codes of politeness, the growing debate about education and the changing status of the professional women writer. The module presents a number of discursive arenas in which femininity was contested and reformulated, including travel writing, popular and genteel fiction, the periodical essay, political economy and poetry. It is aimed at students with backgrounds in literature or history, and no prior knowledge of the eighteenth century is required. Weeks requiring longer readings are balanced with sessions based around shorter, photocopied extracts.

Week 1: Libertine Feminism: Aphra Behn, Love-Letters between a Nobleman and his Sister (1864) and Eliza Haywood, Fantomina (1725).

Week 2: The New Politeness: Joseph Addison and Richard Stelle, The Spectator (numbers 1-4, 15, 128, 182, 390, 561). Eliza Haywood, The Female Spectator [copies of extracts provided].

Week 3: Eastern Femininity: Mary Wortley Montagu, Turkish Embassy Letters (written 1716-18, ed. Malcolm Jack [Virago].

Week 4: Heroic Criminality: Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders (1722) [Wolrd's Classics ed. G. A. Starr].

Week 5: Anti-Feminist Satire: Alexander Pope, "Epistle to a Lady" (1735) and the reply by Lady Ann Ingram, "An Epistle to Mr. Pope". Occasioned by his "Characters on Womne" (1736) [in photocopy].

Week 6: Female Utopias: Sarah Scott, A Description of Millenium Hall (1762), ed. Gary Kelly [Broadview Press].

Week 7: The Great Education Debate: Rousseau, Emile (1762), Hester Mulso Chapone, Letters on the Improvements of the Female MInd (1774) and Catharine Macaulay, Letters on Education (1790). [All in copied extract].

Week 8: Women and the New Science of Economics: John Millar, Observations concerning the Distinction of Ranks in Society (1771), Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776) and Hannah More, Thoughts on the Importance of the Manners of the Great to Society (1788) [all in copied extract].

Week 9: Revoltuionary Feminism: Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, (1792), ed. Janet Todd [Wolrd's Classics].

Week 10: Moderate Enlightenment: Jane Austen, Elinor and Marianne (c. 1797-8) and Sense and Sensibility (1811).

Key Secondary Reading

Armstrong, N. and L. Tennenhouse, The Ideology of Conduct: Essays in Literature and the History of Sexuality (1987)
Bannet, Eve Tavor, The Domestic Revolution: Enlightenment Feminisms and the Novel (2000)
*Ballaster, Ros, Seductive Forms: Women’s Amatory Fiction from 1684-1740 (1992)
Barker, H and E. Chalus, Gender in Eighteenth-Century England (1997)
Gallagher, Catherine, Nobody’s Story: The Vanishing Acts of Women Writers in the Marketplace 1670-1820 (1994)
Guest, Harriet, Small Change: Women, Learning and Patriotism, 1750-1810 (2000)
Grundy, I. Lady Mary Wortley Montagu: Comet of the Enlightenment (2000)
Jones, Vivien, Women in the Eighteenth Century (1995)
Kelly, G. Revolutionary Feminism: The Mind and Career of Mary Wollstonecraft (1992)
Kelly, Gary, Women, Writing and Revolution, 1790-1820 (1993)
Knott, S. and Barbara Taylor eds., Women, Gender and Enlightenment (2005)
Nussbaum, Felicity, Torrid Zones: Maternity, Sexuality and Empire in Eighteenth-Century English Narratives (1995)
O'Brien, Karen, ‘The Feminist Critique of Enlightenment’ Enlightenment Worlds eds., Iain Mccalman and Peter Jones (2004)
Rendall, J. The Origins of Modern Feminism (1985)
Richetti, J. The Cambridge Companion to the Eighteenth-Century Novel (1996)
Shoemaker, R. Gender in English Society, 1650-1850 (1998)
Taylor, B. Licensing Entertainment: The Elevation of Novel Reading in Britain 1684-1750 (1998)