During the eighteenth century, British
critics apply terms of gender to literature according to the belief that
masculine values represent the best literature and feminine terms signify
less important works or authors. This book contends, however, that the
meaning of gendered language, like "manly" or "effeminate,"
changes over time, and the language of eighteenth-century criticism, therefore,
cannot be fully understood without a careful analysis of the gender and
language of the era.
In many ways, eighteenth-century critics set the agenda
for the institutional evaluation of literature, and we have, consequently,
inherited the gendered practices of their criticism. Because no book-length
scholarship has yet addressed this issue, Gender and Language in British
Literary Criticism could have wide ramifications for the study of eighteenth-century
literature and feminist criticism.