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Title: ' The courtesans characters : ''scandalous memoirists'' and their fiction, 1788-1830'
Author: Steenson, J. D.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3479 3799
Awarding Body: Queens University Belfast
Current Institution: Queen's University Belfast
Date of Award: 2008
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This thesis examines 'character' as the place where issues of public and private reputation and memoir and fiction meet, taking as its focus three of the late eighteenth-century's most notorious courtesans and memoirists - Elizabeth Gooch (1756 - post 1804), Mary Robinson (1758 - 1800) and Harriette Wilson (1786 1845). As figures who had publicly flouted the restraints of the period's conventional definitions of feminine identity, all three women came to write about their lives mindful of the rigorous discourses that governed the expression of female character. While tensions between the intemalisation or performance of culturally scripted femininities and the disclosure of a more subversive self in their autobiographical writing has begun to be critically mapped in recent years, there has been little consideration of their fictional texts. These were written contemporaneously with, or soon after, their memoirs as further sites in which they might negotiate the relationship between experience and its articulation. The thesis considers both of Gooch's autobiographical texts, An Appeal to the Public (1788) and The Life ofMrs. Gooch (1792), and her first novel The Contrast (1795); Robinson's 1799 novel The Natural Daughter is compared with her Memoirs, written during the same period and published posthumously in 1801 and Wilson's 1825 Memoirs are set against the short fiction published only two weeks later, Paris Lions and London Tigers and her last novel Clara Gazul (1830). All three women's novels contain characters and plots obviously informed by their personal experiences. Yet this semi-autobiographical facet has often led to the depreciation and dismissal of their fiction. Such an oversight has suppressed the significant questions that a comparison between the life-writing and fiction of these fascinating personalities might raise: questions concerning the constructedness of gender and the limitations and possibilities of literary genre with which to express the experience of gender.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available