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Title: Female education and self-construction in the fiction of five conservative British women writers, c.1778-c.1814
Author: Bagchi, B.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2001
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My thesis examines fictions focusing on female education and development by five representative conservative British women writers who flourished between 1778 and 1814 - Lady Mary Hamilton, Clara Reeve, Elizabeth Hamilton, Mary Brunton, and the early Jane Austen. In a climate in which female education is a subject of anxiety in print culture, in which fiction is also a site of contestation, and in which women are emerging as major producers both of educational writing and of heroine-centred, ostensibly didactic fiction, such writers as the ones I focus on produce fictions of female education which are pioneering Bildungsromans. Highly gendered, these fictions explore key tensions generated by the theme of education - including a dialectic between formal and experiential education, between the pliable, receptive pupil obedient to pedagogical authority-figures and the more autonomous, self-sufficient auto-didact, and between a desire for greater institutionalisation of education and a recognition of the flexibility or freedom that distancing from established structures gives. Such fictions, I argue, are compendious and miscellaneous, encompassing diverse domains of knowledge, such as philosophy (particularly the science of the mind), politics, and history. There is a congruence between the ambulatory, tension-ridden patterns of female education found in these fictions, and the kind of distinctive, miscellaneous fictional knowledge they represent - and their creators, I argue, all grapple with the epistemological and ethical status of fiction, which they connect with female experience. These works seek to go beyond circumscribed ideas about female development, such as the notion that marriage ought to be the purpose or end of female education. The courtship novel is by no means the dominant sub-genre of the female-authored novel in the period - an important sub-genre that I analyse is fiction describing communities reformed by educative women (in the line of Mary Astell's A Serious Proposal to the Ladies, for the Advancement of Their True and Greatest Interest, 1694, and Sarah Scott's Millenium Hall, 1762), such as Mary Hamilton's Munster Village (1778), Clara Reeve's Plans of Education (1792), and The Cottagers of Glenburnie (1808).
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available