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You are here: Home Courses Middlebury-CMRS Course List ENAM 0250 / GSFS 0250 Women & Literature, 1660-1800

ENAM 0250 / GSFS 0250 Women & Literature, 1660-1800

Eighteenth-century Britain has traditionally been thought of in terms of a male monopoly over cultural and political power, yet it was also a time in which increasing literacy and the availability of cheap print brought new voices – and especially those of women – to prominence. The period saw the creation of circulating libraries, the rise of sentimental and Gothic novel-writing, and the appearance of the first female actors.  This course looks at both celebrated and neglected female writers of poetry, prose and dramatic works. It explores the ways in which women participated in the literary sphere, and the ways in which they created new spaces for themselves in discussions of politics, religion, art, philosophy and science. We will also engage with their strategies for the presentation of traditionally ‘feminine’ ideals such as domesticity, maternity and motherhood, chastity and fidelity. The course allows us to place contemporaneous and modern criticism alongside close readings of women’s writing from the period of the civil war to the aftermath of the French Revolution.

Key authors include the poet, dramatist and political radical Aphra Behn; the aristocrat, pioneering traveller and social commentator Mary Wortley Montagu; the immensely popular poet and member of the Bluestocking group, Hannah More; playwright and abolitionist Fanny Burney; Scottish pastoral writer Joanna Baillie; intellectual and prominent dissenter Anna Laetitia Barbauld; educationalist and novelist Maria Edgeworth; gothic pioneer Ann Radcliffe; fervent nationalist poet Felicia Hemans; and the passionate and politically-astute Mary Wollstonecraft, one of the most controversial literary figures of her time. We will also spend time reading the poetry, letters, autobiographies and diaries of lesser-known women whose works reward critical attention.

You never know what you'll find
One afternoon, I left St. Michael's Hall with the desire for a cookie and thought I'd pick one up before heading back to the Bodleian. The shop around...
Gabrielle Linnell, Spring Semester 2012, Wellesley College