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Title: The political values of early Whig drama and poetry by women
Author: Aziz, Azlina
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis examines women writers' contributions to the development of Whig literary culture in the bitterly partisan era known as 'The Rage of the Party'. It takes as its focus the drama and poetry of three contemporaneous female authors - Catharine Trotter, Susanna Centlivre, and Sarah Fyge Egerton - a circle of self-confident female wits, who emerged in the decades after the Glorious Revolution, and wrote in support of Whig ideology and aesthetics. This project, then, challenges the received notion that Toryism was more conducive to early modern women's public voice. It also contributes to the study of Whig cultural formation, which has hitherto focused on male writers and the genre of poetry. Pioneering scholarship on literary Whiggism has revealed the existence of a dynamic Whig literary culture long occluded by a 'Scriblerian' notion of literary history. Through the recovery of female interventions in Whig public discourse, this study modifies our view of early Whig culture, revealing a richer, more complex picture of the breadth and variety of the Whig cultural programme than previously conceived. A major focus of my research is the significance of the post-Revolution stage as an important site of Whig cultural production and a vital source of support for women writers, who capitalized on the patronage and industry networks of the theatre to enable and support their literary careers. This study's engagement with female responses to partisan debates produces some surprising results. Trotter's identity as a Catholic did not preclude her from articulating vigorous support for the tenets of the Revolution, nor did it prevent her from receiving the patronage of a number of Whig luminaries. This illuminates the richness and variety of early Whig culture, which accommodates surprisingly divergent religio-political positions. The focus on Egerton's political poetry reveals a hitherto unacknowledged picture of her as a patriotic Whig poet, whose well-known feminist views are enabled and informed by the ideology and tropes of Whig verse. While readings of women's Whiggish interest have largely focused on their concerns with marriage and a Lockean social contract, my research illustrates how Whiggish women's political identities are more often articulated through their attitudes to partisan national issues: war, peace, martial heroism, commerce, speculation and religious toleration. Women engaged with these masculinist themes in explicit dialogue with their male contemporaries, refashioning the norms of the dominant culture, and alerting us to the nature and extent of female political agency.
Supervisor: Ballaster, Ros ; Williams, Abigail Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English poetry--18th century ; English drama--18th century ; Politics and literature ; Laudatory poetry, English ; English literature--Early modern ; History and criticism ; Literary whiggism ; Political poetry, English ; Women's writing ; Whig party (Great Britain) ; Feminist literary criticism