ENGL 465 LEC 800: Women Writing Revolution and Romanticism

G. Kelly

The age of revolutions and Romanticism was the cataclysmic onset of modernity, much as we still know it. A struggle between contending interests, this modernity was diverse and had many outstanding proponents, practitioners, and performers. The dominance of patriarchal modernity in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries obscured numerous contenders, among them women, many of whom have been retrieved since the 1970s, and made available for our rewriting and refashioning of modernity, and post-modernity. This women’s modernity is the subject of this course.

The course will have a small core syllabus of prominent figures in various genres and sites of struggle, including poetry, drama, fiction, and polemics. Class members will be free to compose a personal syllabus from then on, exploring their own choice of writers, artists, activists, crusaders, performers, and celebrities, and sharing their discoveries with the rest of us. Apart from a final course project and a self-assessment of course engagement, members will choose their own kinds of assignments.

To get an idea of the possible scope of the course for each class member and the diverse choices available, consult Wikipedia on such writers as:
Anna Laetitia Barbauld, poet, children’s writer, public intellectual.
Hannah More, poet, dramatist, polemicist, social reform activist.
Hannah Cowley, innovative amatory poet and satirical dramatist.
Mary Wollstonecraft, self-styled female philosopher, novelist, critic, public intellectual.
Mary Hays, reformist, novelist, biographer.
Mary Robinson, actor, amatory adventurer, poet, novelist, celebrity.
Charlotte Smith, pioneering poet and novelist.
Elizabeth Craven, aristocrat, amatory adventurer, travel writer, autobiographer.
Felicia Hemans, the most widely read (and highly paid) woman poet in the nineteenth-century English-speaking world, and a leading critic of masculinist history and patriarchy.
Joanna Baillie, innovative dramatist of the “passions.”
Ann Radcliffe, pioneering Gothic novelist.
Maria Edgeworth, novelist and educationist, proponent of a modernized Ireland and British empire.
Joanna Southcott, semi-literate religious prophet, author, and leader of a millenarian movement whose followers continue today.
Jane Austen, originator of one of the most powerful novelistic forms since her time, and of course founder of a literary industry flourishing now more than ever. Christian Isobel Johnstone, literary editor, historical novelist, and author of an influential feminist and anti-imperialist cookbook.
Mary Shelley, Wollstonecraft’s daughter, political radical, intellectual and writer, author of Frankenstein.
Mary Prince, escaped Caribbean slave, abolitionist, composer of the first narrative of an enslaved woman published in Britain.

Artists such as: Angelica Kauffmann, Maria Cosway, Anne Damer, Lady Julia Gordon, Lady Susan Percy, Ann Sanders

Celebrities such as:
Sarah Siddons, leading tragic actor of her day.
Lady Caroline Lamb, socialite, Byron’s lover, pioneer of revenge fiction, prime minister’s wife.
Queen Caroline, wife of King George IV, defendant in a divorce trial that brought Britain to the brink of revolution.
Germaine de Staël, public intellectual, author of international best-selling fiction and cultural critique, and one of the three most famous people in Europe in her day (the others were Napoleon and Byron).
Emma, Lady Hamilton, model, actor, and lover of national naval hero Horatio Nelson.
Lucia Vestris, singer, star actor, theatrical entrepreneur.

Topics and themes to explore:
Women and property
Marriage laws
Public women
Women intellectuals
Women activists
Scandalous women
Women artistic innovators
Women revolutionize the private and public spheres
Feminist cookery
others by individual choice

Class members select a few from these lists according to individual interest and add or substitute others as desired.