Bluestockings: Women of Reason from Enlightenment to by Elizabeth Eger

By Elizabeth Eger

Bluestockings participated within the first wide-scale construction of a countrywide tradition. Exploring the strain among person and collective versions of authorship, Eger attracts on visible and revealed fabrics and unpublished manuscripts to argue for the long-lasting relevance of rational argument within the heritage of womens' writing.

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Chapter 3, ‘ “Female Champions”: Women Critics of Shakespeare’ offers an exploration of the strategies (sometimes subversive) that women writers adopted to address the interests of female readers. The promotion of Shakespeare as a hero of the vernacular literary tradition who lacked a classical education was particularly attractive to women, who became associated with early revivals of his plays at the beginning of the century. While Elizabeth Montagu and Elizabeth Griffith promoted Shakespeare as England’s national poet, Charlotte Lennox was more critical.

Anna Barbauld’s Eighteen Hundred and Eleven (1812) and Lucy Aikin’s Epistles on Women (1810) are both public poems of considerable depth and ambition. They might be argued to represent the end of an era in radically different tones. A comparative reading of these poems will demonstrate the ways in which they can be read as experimental reflections on (or projections of) the female community represented in Samuel’s painting. com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14 Introduction: The Nine Living Muses of Great Britain 31 1 If any one should start a query, why the ancients, who reasoned so deeply, should, in their personifications of the sovereign wisdom, have chosen Minerva a female; why the Muses, who preside over the several subordinate modes of intelligence, &c.

66 Such a demotic and diffuse Enlightenment, which incorporated journalists, Johnsonian coffee-house philosophers, writers of the bluestocking circle, Unitarian ministers, collectors and connoisseurs, scientists and educators, as well as moral philosophers such as Shaftesbury, Hume and Adam Smith, was a world in which women, along with intellectual iconoclasts of all sorts, could participate and even flourish. Their presence provoked interest in itself, the ‘woman question’ occupying pens in all sectors of contemporary culture, from political and aesthetic treatises to new encyclopaedias and journals.

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