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Women in English Literature 1660-1800

Class at Faculty of Arts |


For the latest details see the seminar syllabus file attached.

The course is open only to DALC MA students and to those ERASMUS students that are directly affiliated to our DALC department.


In the period 1660 to 1800 women began to contribute in significantly large numbers to a rapidly expanding print culture. We shall analyse the social, legal and ideological constructions of women which writers had to negotiate, and in the process we shall explore women’s (and men’s, too) writing documenting especially the range of developments in fiction – from scandal chronicles and amatory fiction to political satire, philosophical utopia, novel of sentiment and gothic romance.

Our studied texts have been chosen to illuminate the most significant preoccupations of Restoration and eighteenth-century society because they play with, probe, ridicule, reject or comply with the dominant assumptions that structured early modern beliefs and behaviour. We shall, consequently, investigate a broad range of period ideas on issues such as friendship, science, politics, education, nation, the family, liberty, domesticity, civilization, progress, etc.


- all texts are available online on moodle (scanned in pdf or downloaded from LiteratureOnline in Word); if you prefer printed texts, there are several individual issues of the longer novels in our Dept. library in room 107 and in the National Library, such as:

- Frances Brooke – The History of Emily Montague

Mary Wollstonecraft - passages from A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Mary and Maria or The Wrongs of Woman

Elizabeth Inchbald – The Simple Story

Aphra Behn – The Works

- at least two useful basic secondary sources: Janet Todd - Dictionary of British and American Women Writers 1660-1800 (107 reference section) and Susan Staves – A Literary History of Women’s Writing in Britain 1660-1789 (Nat. Library)


Active participation in classroom discussions, attendance, an oral presentation or one essay. Loads of reading, so keeping up with the schedule is a must! If you come unprepared to class or without texts, this will count as an absence. THREE absences are within limits.

Assignments 1/ oral presentation (intended primarily for MA students only):

Depending on the number of students, each class member will select one author and text for an in-class presentation of approx. 40 – 60 minutes duration (always consult instructor beforehand regarding topic and themes). This should be concerned with the author's literary (!) biography, i.e. provide a summary of available biographical information, a concise description of key literary works, characteristics and career in the author's historical context. If possible, it should also touch upon the reception of the author's works over time. Most importantly, it should be an attempt at critical analysis and interpretation of the assigned text with an introduction of important themes for further discussion in class.

OR 2/ possible other participants write an essay: on a free topic (after consultation with instructor), length approx. 2,400 words (8 pages). DUE by 15.5. (For formal requirements, see departmental web page: essay guidelines)

In case there are more MA participants than available topics for presentation, please contact the instructor for another assignment

Study programmes