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English Past and Present

Selected Papers from the IAUPE Malta Conference in 2010

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Edited By Wolfgang Viereck

This collection unites 21 papers mainly presented at the 21st IAUPE (International Association of University Professors of English) Conference held at the Valetta Campus of the University of Malta in mid-July 2010. Most periods of world-wide literature in English from Anglo-Saxon to the present day were represented as well as many aspects of language and linguistics. One section «Writers and the Mediterranean» was of particular local interest.

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Voicing Criticism in Eighteenth-Century Novels by Women: Narrative Attempts at Claiming Authority: Vera Nünning

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Voicing Criticism in Eighteenth-Century Novels by Women: Narrative Attempts at Claiming Authority Vera Nünning University of Heidelberg To combine the topics of criticism and authority in eighteenth-century novels by women may seem surprising; after all, someone in a position of authority does not have to worry about voicing criticism. For female novelists of the eighteenth century, however, the mere attempt at claiming authority was anything but un- problematic. Denied access to grammar schools and universities, they were as a rule less educated than their male counterparts, and they were certainly not ex- pected to express their opinions in public. Even though the situation slightly improved during the course of the eighteenth century,1 women had difficulties laying claim to a position of authority. They were supposed to be modest, chaste and inexperienced as far as the important facts of life are concerned; and this, of course, clashed with the writing of literary works, which were expected to both instruct and delight their readers. On the one hand, the brazenness of the assump- tion of the ‘Amazons of the Pen’, whom Samuel Johnson criticised for entering a male dominion,2 was meliorated by the fact that they chose to write novels. This new genre had a bad reputation anyway, and since there were no established classical rules which writers had to follow, the lack of education did not matter so much. On the other hand, this lack of acceptance posed a problem for authors who wanted their work to be...

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