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Title: Eighteenth-century women writers and the tradition of epistolary complaint
Author: Garner-Mack, Naomi Jayne
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis considers the presence of the epistolary tradition of female complaint in the writings of five late eighteenth-century women writers: Hester Thrale Piozzi, Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Turner Smith, Mary Robinson, and Frances Burney D’Arblay. The epistolary female complaint tradition is premised on the suggestion that readers are permitted, through the literary endeavours of male authors/transcribers, a glimpse into the authentically felt woes of women; the writers in this study both question and exploit this expectation. Often viewed by critics like John Kerrigan as a tradition that stifled female creativity, epistolary female complaint proves, this thesis argues, a lively and enlivening tradition for women writers; it provided opportunities for literary experimentation and enabled them to turn their experiences into artistic form. Five themes central to the epistolary female complaint tradition are considered: betrayal, absence, suicide, falls, and authorship. Each chapter looks at one theme and one author specifically. Chapter 1 examines the narrative of betrayal Hester Thrale Piozzi established in her journals from 1764 to 1784. Chapter 2 turns to Mary Wollstonecraft and her accounts of absence in her private letters to Gilbert Imlay, and her epistolary travel account, A Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark (1796). Chapter 3 discusses Charlotte Turner Smith’s engagement with the theme of suicide in her Elegiac Sonnets (1784) and her epistolary novel, Desmond(1792). Chapter 4 considers the strategies employed in Mary Robinson’s autobiographical, poetic, and fictional writings, which work to move beyond the moral fall the tradition implied. Chapter 5 focuses on the recurrent theme of authorial debt in Frances Burney D’Arblay’s journals, plays, and fiction. I conclude by considering Jane Austen’s appropriation of the tradition in her final novel, Persuasion (1818), and her transformation of the tradition by providing a resolution to the cause of complaint.
Supervisor: Ballaster, Ros Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English Language and Literature ; Female Complaint ; Epistolary Fiction ; Women Authors ; 18th Century