A Feminine Enlightenment: British Women Writers and the Philosophy of Progress, 1759-1820 (Edinburgh Critical Studies in Romanticism)

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9780748695942: A Feminine Enlightenment: British Women Writers and the Philosophy of Progress, 1759-1820 (Edinburgh Critical Studies in Romanticism)
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Revises established understandings of British women writers' contributions to Enlightenment narratives of social and historical progress

Drawing on original archival research, A Feminine Enlightenment argues that women writers shaped Enlightenment conversations regarding the role of sentiment and gender in the civilizing process. By reading women's literature alongside history and philosophy and moving between the eighteenth century and Romantic era, JoEllen DeLucia challenges conventional historical and generic boundaries. Beginning with Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), she tracks discussions of "women's progress" from the rarified atmosphere of mid-eighteenth-century Bluestocking salons and the masculine domain of the Scottish university system to the popular Minerva Press novels of the early nineteenth century. Ultimately, this study positions feminine genres such as the Gothic romance and Bluestocking poetry, usually seen as outliers in a masculine Age of Reason, as essential to understanding emotion's role in Enlightenment narratives of progress. The effect of this study is twofold: to show how developments in women's literature reflected and engaged with Enlightenment discussions of emotion, sentiment, and commercial and imperial expansion; and to provide new literary and historical contexts for contemporary conversations that continue to use "women's progress" to assign cultures and societies around the globe a place in universalizing schemas of development.

Key Features

Establishes the centrality of gender to Enlightenment discussions of social and historical development
Uncovers evidence of women writers' participation in the Scottish Enlightenment's theorization of sentiment and historical progress
Provides literary and historical background for ongoing discussions of the history of emotion and the study of affect

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About the Author:


JoEllen DeLucia is an Assistant Professor of English at Central Michigan University. She has published numerous essays on women's writing, eighteenth-century and Romantic-era literature, and Enlightenment thought.

Review:


[A]n important contribution to scholarship on the relationship of women writers to the Scottish Enlightenment.
-- E. J. Clery, University of Southampton, Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature (35.1)


...an enlightening and perceptive book.
-- Nicole Pohl, Oxford Brookes University for Interactive Journal for Women in the Arts, 1640-1830


Offers a fresh and engaging account of the role played by women writers and readers in a genealogy of Enlightenment thought that is often considered not just predominantly but almost exclusively masculine.
-- Jenny Davidson, Columbia University for Studies in English Literature, Volume 56, Number 3


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