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Title: Sociable productions : women's poetry, 1730-1760
Author: Keown, Kathleen
ISNI:       0000 0004 7971 5710
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis investigates the sociable verse of women poets in the mid-eighteenth century. Sociable verse is best defined as poetry which describes social occasions (such as visits, or dinner parties), or functions as a social interaction (such as poetic letters exchanged between friends). It often imitates a sociable manner of behaviour and speech: conversational, amusing, with a familiar tone. Such poetry had long been a mainstay for women within manuscript circles, as a means of socialising through textual circulation, but by the mid-century it had also become prevalent within their printed poetry collections. Why did the publication of sociable verse become fashionable for women poets? What literary or professional advantages did it offer them? And what did eighteenth-century audiences enjoy about this poetry, which is often neglected by modern criticism? Drawing particularly on the writings of Mary Barber, Mary Leapor, and Mary Jones, this thesis provides the first full-length study of sociable verse, and illuminates the centrality of literary sociability to these women's experiences of poetic composition, publication, and reception. To reassess the significance of women's sociable verse, the thesis suggests a variety of contexts within which this poetry might be situated, and therefore better understood. Sociable verse was perceived as a genteel literary pastime in the eighteenth century, and aspirational individuals could obtain cultural capital by reading or writing it. Chapter 1 establishes that it gradually became codified as a polite accomplishment for young women. Chapter 2 explores how it also accorded with a taste for 'easy' writing within Augustan literary criticism, which meant that women poets could use their sociable compositions to engage with mainstream literary discourse. Chapter 3 focuses on subscription publication, demonstrating that this became a central and enabling form of publication for women poets from the 1730s onwards, and that sociable verse was an important means of securing subscribers. Chapter 4 considers the collections within which women's sociable verses were usually printed (volumes often titled Poems on Several Occasions), and reveals the benefits of approaching these collections as cohesive literary projects, which generate narratives of the woman poet's social relationships and experiences. Two appendices provide, firstly, an account of the textual history of Barber, Leapor, and Jones; and secondly, a record of every single-authored poetry collection published by a woman poet in Britain or Ireland between 1700 and 1799. Ultimately, the thesis argues that we should take women's sociable productions seriously, viewing these verses as acts of creative labour, which possess literary value and reward scholarly attention.
Supervisor: Gerrard, Christine ; Johnston, Freya Sponsor: Wolfson Foundation
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Books and reading -- Sociological aspects ; English poetry -- 18th century ; Women and literature ; English literature ; English literature -- 18th century ; English poetry -- Women authors ; Women and literature -- Great Britain -- History -- 18th century ; Publishers and publishing -- Great Britain -- History -- 18th century