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Frances Burney and the Female «Bildungsroman»

An Interpretation of «The Wanderer: or, Female Difficulties»


Mascha Gemmeke

Frances Burney’s last novel The Wanderer: or, Female Difficulties (1814) is a fascinating study of late-eighteenth-century English society. But is it a good novel, too? For years and years, critics have denied the book’s literary merit. Read as a Bildungsroman, however, the novel’s many puzzling complexities, seeming irregularities, and frequent didactic «asides» suddenly fall into place. Far from being Burney’s least important work, The Wanderer is an intricate portrait of what it meant to be a humanist, a refugee, and a woman at the time of the French Revolution.
Contents: The Female Bildungsroman – Female Education – Conduct Books – Marriage – History – Women and the Working World – Private Theatricals and the Public Stage – The Beautiful, the Useful, and the Difficult – Travellers’ Tales and Women’s Wanderings – Female Genius and the Call of Duty.