This work focuses on the issue of women’s education in a series of novels written by women in the second half of the eighteenth century. On the one hand, the surface plots are conservative, thus reaffirming the social order; on the other hand, numerous subversive narrative techniques undermine the surface stories, drawing attention to the consequences of the arbitrary limitations society imposed on middle-class women as well as to the sense of entrapment and the resulting anxieties they experienced. In showing the increasing female readership ways to negotiate between the behavioural codes of a patriarchal society and their own need for personal freedom, these novels can be read as early feminist critiques of society.
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2005. IX, 231 pp.
Contents: Proto-feminism in a series of eighteenth-century novels: The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless – The
Female Quixote – Memoirs of Miss Sidney Bidulph – Evelina; or, The History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the
World – Mary: A Fiction – A Simple Story – The Mysteries of Udolpho – Memoirs of Emma Courtney
– The Wrongs of Woman; or, Maria. A Fragment.