To suffice to herself : female self-sufficiency in the work of women writers 1740-1814
This thesis takes as its focus the concept of self- sufficiency in the works of women writers 1740-1814, in order to re-evaluate the relationship between moral and economic modes of eighteenth-century female (in)dependence. This focus comprises two more refined aims: to formulate an appropriate methodology for using the term self-sufficiency within the project by establishing its definitions and applications, both contemporary and modern (addressing, in effect, whether it can be said to establish its own discourse); and to discuss a range of work by female writers whose thematic and strategic investigation of moral and economic issues positions the nature of female self-sufficiency amongst their concerns. As part of this, the thesis seeks a broader definition of female economic behaviour than has been the case in recent critical debates in order to reconsider women's presence as economic beings in the fiction of the period. Sarah Fielding's works are discussed in terms of her fascination with exchange motifs and how this is manifested in her management of narrative forms to structure moral and economic models of self-sufficiency. The work of Frances Brooke is used to explore the implications of self-sufficiency in a range of sexual and economic categories of femininity- the spinster, the widow, the coquette and the female writer. An investigation of Frances Sheridan's novels is concerned with the relationship between individual morality and the collective values, together with the processes of acculturation, structured by female education and conduct procedures. It evaluates how the self-sufficiency of the personal economy engages with wider economies - moral, domestic and political. A fourth chapter on Frances Burney examines her sustained preoccupation with the concept of female self-dependence, and with the nature of female employment. These investigations suggest that only by encompassing non-monetary economies can the nature and scope of eighteenth-century women's economic experiences be determined.