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Title: Male-female friendship and English fiction in the mid-eighteenth century
Author: Donoghue, Emma Mary
ISNI:       0000 0001 3429 1078
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 1996
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Friendship between the sexes, in eighteenth-century England, was a site of great controversy: it could be mocked as a chimera, feared as a mask for seduction or a leveller of gender distinctions, or welcomed as a sign of newly enlightened sociability. Sarah Fielding, Henry Fielding, Samuel Richardson and Charlotte Lennox all explored the tantalizing possibilities of such friendship in their daily lives as well as in their fiction. Their relationships have tended to be stereotyped as a symbiosis of benevolent male genius and grateful female talent. But as friends, siblings and colleagues who worked together closely, these writers broke new ground. In the middle of the century, a unique spirit of cooperation veiled, without erasing, the old tensions between the sexes, which continued to be played out discreetly in these writers' dedications, prefaces, reviews and, above all, letters. Mid--eighteenth-century experiments with the theme of friendship between the sexes in fiction have been generally ignored or misread as euphemistic versions of courtship or parenthood. But novels by the four authors in this study benefit greatly from being read against the grain, with the spotlight turned from their main plots of courtship to their more ambiguous sub-plots. Male-female friendship is not proposed here as a watertight category but rather as a fascinating area of overlap and contest between ideologies of relationship. Chapter 1 sketches the broad spectrum of male-female friendship possibilities in eighteenth-century literature. The next three chapters focus on three significant sample patterns: Sarah and Henry Fielding's sibling bond, Samuel Richardson's cultivation of a wide circle of literary 'daughters', and the mentor-protegee relationship in the life and works of Charlotte Lennox. The aim of this thesis is to reconsider these writers' lives and reputations while demonstrating the peculiar interest of male-female friendship as a lens through which to view eighteenth-century literature and literary history.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Male-female relationships ; mid-eighteenth century ; English fiction