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ENGLISH 7740: Feminist Approaches to Eighteenth-Century Literature
Spring 2005

Dr. Paula R. Backscheider
9082 Haley Center
(334) 844-9091


This seminar explores and discusses the work that feminist critics are doing today and the issues and inquiries that seem most pressing and interesting to the seminar members. Although it uses eighteenth-century women writers, their texts, and biographical and critical literature about them, the seminar is also a good introduction to literary study. The seminar is primarily applied literary study, and we will read three revolutionary prose texts by early eighteenth-century novelists, three subversive poems, and two responses to the French Revolution (one a play and one a novel) that, in their time, were considered dangerous and politically inflammatory. Representative writers are Haywood, Rowe, Finch, Inchbald, and Smith. The syllabus is divided into four sections: "Recovering and Editing Texts"; "Reinterpreting Lives and Contextualizing Texts"; "New Ways of Interpreting Difficult Texts,"; and "Tomorrow's Issues". Each seminar member will become a specialist on a neglected woman writer, make two short presentations about that person, and write a critical paper on her. In addition, seminar members will report on current feminist work in a selected journal. Two professors from other universities who have helped shape the current field of feminist criticism will visit the seminar to talk about their work and issues they believe feminist critics still need to address.

Required Texts:

Joanna Russ, How to Suppress Women's Writing (U. Texas P.)

Paula Backscheider and John Richetti, eds. Popular Fiction by Women ( Oxford)

Toril Moi, Simone de Beauvoir: The Making of an Intellectual Woman (Blackwell)

Charlotte Smith, The Young Philosopher (U. Kentucky P.)


Jan. 13: Introduction

Recovering and Editing Women's Texts

Jan. 20: How to Suppress Women's Writing; how texts are recovered; examples.

27: "Fantomina," "Love Intrigues," and "Friendship in Death" in Popular Fiction by Women: Margaret Ezell's "Women Writers and Patterns of Manuscript Circulation and Publication" in her The Patriarch's Wife*; Joanne Lafler, "The Will of Katherine Maynwaring," biography 20 (1997): 156-180*

Feb. 3: Guest. Professor Kathryn King. Reading: Chapter of Jane Barker: Exile

10: Reports on recovered writers and edited texts.

Reinterpreting Lives and Contextualizing Texts

17: Dolores Palomo, "A Woman Writer and the Scholars: A Review of Manley's Reputation"*: Maureen Mulvihill, "A Feminist Link in the Old Boys' Network"*; Backscheider, pp. 71-83 of Spectacular Politics*; Sue Churchill, "1 Then Was What I Had Made Myself."* and Simone de Beauvoir, Pt. 1, chapters 1-2.

24: Review textual notes to novellas from 27 January. Chapter 3 of Simone de Beauvoir; "The Laugh of the Medusa"*; Susan Lanser, "(Im)plying the Author"*; Roland Barthes, "The Death of an Author*; and Michel Foucault, "What is an Author?"*

March 3: Guest: Professor Susan Lanser. Reading: "The Novel Body Politic" and "Strategies of Coding"

10: Research Day.

17: Reception history reports and annotated bibliography due as well.

New Ways of Interpreting Difficult Texts

24: Elizabeth Singer Rowe, The History of Joseph*; Elizabeth Hands, The Death of Amnon*; and Ann Finch, "Nocturnal Reverie" and "The Spleen"*


April 7 and 14: Elizabeth Inchbald, The Massacre and Charlotte Smith, The Young Philosopher

Tomorrow's Issues

21: Reports on journals and segment of Simone de Beauvoir.

28: Continuation of Inchbald, Smith and information from reports.

Exam Period: Presentations of Major Findings in your Papers.