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Sep. 14, 2015

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Dr. Laura L. Runge
Office: CPR 360 D
Phone: 813-974-9496

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ENL 6236 18th Century Women Authors in the Digital Archive

Class 5: Feminist Resistance

Meet in Grace Allen Room of USF Library (4th Floor) for class on 17th and 18th c books with Melanie Griffin
Staves Chapter 3
Astell’s Serious Proposal to the Ladies, part I (Internet Archive;
Poems by Chudleigh, (To the Ladies BWPLEC)
Astell (TBA),
Egerton (The Emulation BWPLEC);
Article on Egerton chosen by Sarah Nicely

DUE: Post #4
Wiki Assign: Generate a list of article suggestions and /or corrections to your author article in your sandbox. Visit two other class members’ sandbox and add comments

    See, feel and understand seventeenth and eighteenth century books

    Discuss Astell's Serious Proposal

    Analyze poems by Chudleigh, Astell and Egerton

    Discuss scholarly article

    Review first four parts of the Author Summary Project weekly assignments

    Review Wikipedia work in sandboxes

Notes and Discussion Questions

    Your main reading for class this week is Astell's essay A Serious Proposal to the Ladies, and I've asked you to read this in the Internet Archive Open Library, where they reproduce the 1697 edition printed by Richard Wilkin. Explore the different interactions you can have with the digital text on this site. What is the reading experience like? What does the appearance of the book tell you about the text? What questions does it raise?

    We will be visiting the Special Collections this week to handle real book objects from the eighteenth century and to learn a little about their construction. For some background, please review this useful web resource on book history: Arch Book.

    Mary Astell

    Note that Staves discusses Serious Proposal at length in LHWWB 98-103. She ends her second chapter on Astell: “This alliance women forged with the late seventeenth-century forces of religion and virtue may at first appear dreary or repressive or catastrophically sexless, Astell and many of her contemporaries judged it both intrinsically right and in the best interests of contemporary women. Given the real contempt for women of the older patriarchal ideology and the crucial role of theology in that ideology, and given the real dangers to seventeenth-century women posed by libertine philosophy and rakish practice, I find it hard to say that Astell judged wrongly” (121).

    To what extent do you agree with Staves on this?

    Astell: “Remember, I pray you, the famous Women of former Ages, the Orinda’s of late, and the more Modern Heroins, and blush to think how much is now, and will hearafter be said of them, when you your selves (as great a Figure as you make) must be buried in silence and forgetfulness!” (8).

    What does her appeal to Orinda(s) suggest about the status of women’s writing? Who is her audience here?

    Note the pithy rhetorical address of her argument, and savor Astell’s fine lines. There is a modern resonance to her claims: “And not entertain such a degrading thought of our own worth, as to imagine that our Souls were given us only for the service of our Bodies, and that the best improvement we can make of these, is to attract the eyes of men. We value them too much, and our selves too little, if we place any part of our desert in their Opinon; and don’t think our selves capable of Nobler Things than the pitiful Conquest of some worthless heart” (11).

    Astell: "My earnest desire is, That you Ladies, would be as perfect and happy as ‘tis possible to be in this imperfect state; for I love you too well to endure a spot upon your Beauties, if I can by any means remove and wipe it off” (13). What type of relationship does Astell propose among women?

    Note the argument she makes about educating women to judge rightly of compliments and learn to value one's self; this becomes a well-used argument in women’s writing throughout the century. What is the force of this argument?

    Note how “custom” is used in the writings and poetry of women this week (e.g. Astell 30-31). What does it mean? What is its hold? How do you understand the abstraction? Analyze the image.

    The subject matter and argumentation in A Serious Proposal to the Ladies strikes me as consonant with many self-help discourses for women today. What issues are at stake for women then and now? What has changed and what remains similar?


    As with the poems from last week, read these poems for their denotative meaning, connotative and rhetorical meaning, and read them several times, including at least once aloud.

    How do these poems differ from the variety of poems we read last week?

    Much of this poetry addresses the "older patriarchal ideology and the crucial role theology played in that ideology." How do poems represent patriarchy? What authorizes these poetic voices of resistance?

    How do systems of gender and slavery align in these poems?

    What are some of the expedients for women to escape their suffering?

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