This module provides a wide-ranging introduction to ideas and representations of women in the British Enlightenment, and includes writings by and about women during the eighteenth century. How did men and women understand femininity? Can we speak of feminism in the eighteenth century? Did all writing on the condition of women make the same arguments? What texts were available to women? What alternative communities did women imagine? What does it mean to think about these questions in the context of the Enlightenment? In this seminar, we will answer these questions by exploring how, over the course of the long eighteenth century, femininity was understood and reconceived morally, politically and socially, through the opposite categories of the ‘elegant female’ and ‘rational creature’. We will consider how the term ‘bluestocking’, which originally designated mixed social gatherings came to become a derogatory term for intellectual women, and how the figure of the female philosopher became an object of fear and ridicule, an ‘unsex’d’ individual. A focus will be placed on the 1790s and feminist writing in the wake of the French Revolution. We will explore a wide range of texts, from the political treatises of Mary Astell and Mary Robinson, to the periodical literature of Joseph Addison and Eliza Haywood, to the novels of Sarah Scott and Jane Austen. Literary texts will be discussed alongside Scottish Enlightenment philosophical writing on the progress of human societies and women’s position within civilized societies.
Literatur, Gender Studies