Dr. Laura L. Runge
ENL 6236 18th Century Women Authors in the Digital Archive
Staves, Literary History of Women’s Writing in Britain, 1660-1789, Introduction;
Judith Phillips Stanton “Statistical Profile of Women Writing in English 1660-1800,” Canvas
Patrick Spedding, “’The New Machine’: Discovering the Limits of ECCO.” Canvas.
Research Workshop with Melanie Griffin
DUE Post #1
Discuss how to do literary history (Ezell, Stanton, Staves), especially updated with the digital archive.
Compare and contrast Encyclopedia and Dictionary articles on authors in class.
Introduce Bonnell Thorton’s Eminent Ladies and the Feminiad in digital archive.
Notes and Discussion QuestionsThe readings for this week set the stage for a critical and historical discussion of literature by women between the years 1660 and (roughly) 1800. Ezell’s provocative analysis of the models of literary historiography and feminist criticism, published in 1993, addresses the shape of the field twenty-two years ago and some of the problems we encountered as a result of the groundbreaking scholarship of the seventies and early eighties. Writing Women’s Literary History poses significant questions about the ways in which we envision the past, authors and writing itself, and these questions have been taken up in the scholarship of the past decade. Susan Staves’ A Literary History of Women’s Writing in Britain, 1660-1789 (Cambridge 2006) posits one authoritative and substantial literary history for our subject, and our history has since been supplemented by the chronological survey published by Palgrave. Judith Phillips Stanton’s short, bibliographic study supplies the data for women writers and the types of works that they published, one index of the field of eighteenth-century women’s writing that may surprise you. Taken as a whole, these writings should give you some basis from which to begin your study of eighteenth-century women writers and provide a critical and historical context with which to work.
I've added the article by Patrick Spedding to make you aware of some of the skills required when doing eighteenth-century research in digital forums, particularly using ECCO.
Margaret Ezell summarizes the state of research on early women writers (p. 2-3) in 1993 and builds her argument about the models of literary history based on the available scholarship. To what extent is the scholarship she cites still in play, still instrumental in the field of women’s literature? (For instance, how many of you have read the works or heard of the works she engages?) How has the field changed? How different is the perspective represented in Susan Staves’ “Introduction”?
What are some of the primary differences in literary production between the seventeenth century and the nineteenth century? What impact does this have on literature by women? What does it mean for feminist scholarship? For example, what are the problems with imposing a commercial model of literary production on an evaluation of seventeenth century coterie writers?
Ezell writes: “I intend this book to be a provocative and polemical study rather than one offering an expanded list of authors to supplement the existing model or imposing a ‘new’ theory of the ‘tradition’” (7). What is so provocative and/or polemical about Ezell’s argument? What new works or writings does her challenge to feminist criticism make visible for the first time?
More intriguingly, perhaps, what does it mean to suggest that feminist recovery (that she engages) reproduces the literary models of the patriarchal society it aims to criticize? How does feminist criticism accommodate early female writers who are not “feminist” by twentieth-century standards? How does feminist criticism engage works of literature by women that fail the standards of “excellence” articulated by Virginia Woolf? How do we discuss/engage literature that falls outside of the celebrated genres of poetry and fiction? Again, in what ways does Staves’ respond to these issues in her literary history?
On page 9, Ezell quotes Elaine Hobby’s insightful warning: “’In many ways we find in the past what we look for: by and large, we only come up with answers to questions we think to ask.’ This type of self-conscious historicism intentionally makes us re-vision what we think we know about the past and the ways in which it has been transmitted to us.” As we discover, recover, interpret and analyze the writings by women from the eighteenth century, it will be important to keep this reference in mind and try to be open to things that we might not think to ask.
The contentious topics of Ezell’s research that merit our attention include: