Empowering the Feminine
This book examines selected narratives by three female writers who lived in England in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In linking together Mary Robinson, Jane West, and Amelia Opie, I hope to show the ways in which three women, though of different ideological and social backgrounds, attempted to negotiate with the period's prevailing notions of gender, identity, and female selfhood. Robinson, West, and Opie each explored the various ways women could empower themselves and be empowered without necessarily breaking with cultural definitions of the feminine. Writing in the particularly turbulent years after the French Revolution and after the radical feminist ideas of Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, these authors were conscious of the political and cultural implications of their works. They understood that novels, for instance, could not only influence and shape a young female reader's thinking about marriage, motherhood, and family relations, but that books could also help define an individual's position in society and outline the way one's subjectivity was constituted. They were aware of the connections between the home and the political arena, and often sought to redefine the terms in the domestic realm in order to show a range of possibilities for both women and men in the private and public sphere.
Available from the University of Toronto Press