Satire + Critic in Northanger Abbey

“But, my dearest Catherine, what have you been doing with yourself all this morning? Have you gone on with Udolpho?”

“Yes, I have been reading it ever since I woke; and I am got to the black veil.”

“Are you, indeed? How delightful! Oh! I would not tell you what is behind the black veil for the world! Are not you wild to know?”

“Oh! Yes, quite; what can it be? But do not tell me—I would not be told upon any account. I know it must be a skeleton, I am sure it is Laurentina’s skeleton. Oh! I am delighted with the book! I should like to spend my whole life in reading it. I assure you, if it had not been to meet you, I would not have come away from it for all the world.”

“Dear creature! How much I am obliged to you; and when you have finished Udolpho, we will read the Italian together; and I have made out a list of ten or twelve more of the same kind for you.”

“Have you, indeed! How glad I am! What are they all?”

“I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocketbook. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last us some time.”

“Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?”

“Yes, quite sure; for a particular friend of mine, a Miss Andrews, a sweet girl, one of the sweetest creatures in the world, has read every one of them.”

Chapter 6, p. 39, Penguin Edition

The gothic novels of the time of the Regency era are discussed here, in particular Ann Radcliffe’s infamously popular The Mysteries of Udolpho. Despite being a gothic genre, the characters and narrator discuss the text in a more sentimental and earnest manner that is meant to be parodic. The gothic genre is traditionally meant to express horror vs terror, yet these examples are all defined as horror. Ann Radcliffe defines the works mentioned as terror, so it is interesting that it is pointed out that Catherine is misunderstanding these works. The humorous tone implies the satire in which Austen indulges, especially through contrastive language/images (“Dear creature” and “Skeleton”). The scene generally serves to establish depth in the friendship as opposed to the relationship of Mrs. Thorpe and Mrs. Allen. And yet, it seems like Austen is making a point of clearly showing the inaccuracy of the conversation and how these girls are misunderstanding the works intended effects. This conversation on the darker genre juxtaposes the lighter romanticized aspects of visiting Bath and meeting the men and looking at hats and dresses, and serves to highlight the darker themes that surface later in the novel.


Jane Austen, Juvenilia and Northanger Abbey

First, my apologies. I thought I’d already posted this. We’ll discuss the Juvenilia and other writings together, along with a few key pages of Northanger Abbey. We’ll read whatever we need to discuss on the spot, since I messed up the reading assignment.

Plan of a Novel:

(Q: 5 mins): Satire and Criticism? Use a passage from this “plan” to discuss JA not just as a novelist, or a parodist, but a critic of the 18th century novel and its conventions.

Parody=criticism of novel and conventions?  Interpretive exaggeration?  Capture of essential features of satiric object?

  1. Keywords: Vanity, wit, pride, duty, passion, duty, propriety, artless, genius, ?
  2. genre and sub-genre: Amatory fiction; sentimental fiction; satiric fiction; gothic fiction; radical fiction, ?
  3. Major themes:
  • Prescribed gender roles for both men and women, in courtship, marriage, and family-relations?
  • The relation between marriage, family, and property?
  • Religion and morality from the perspective of the (male or female) individual, or from that of the family and/or social order?
  • Theatricality, deception, disguise, or masquerade as a metaphor for social interactions and society at large?
  • Gendered sensibility and its accommodation within a (violent or antagonistic) social order?
  • Gendered taste and its accommodation within an (antagonistic) social order?

4. Some Early Parallels from Austen’s Juvenilia:

“Henry and Eliza”

“Frederic and Elfrida”

“The Beautifull Cassandra” and “A Letter from a Young Lady”

“Letter 5th of Love and Freindship”

“Jack and Alice”

5. Northanger Abbey:

  • A. Free indirect Discourse: J Thorpe’s rudeness to sisters & C’s anger;
  • B. Books and Taste: ch. 6, reactions of Miss Andrews, Isabella, and J Thorpe to Udolpho; criticizing Udolpho but being a gothic novel too; 
  • C: Learning: Thorpe and balls; C’s realization of I’s cruelty and blaming of Tilney; boy craziness of I; J Thorpe’s echoing of Gen. Tilney; Henry scolds C for suspecting Gen.; Danielle, good nature or cowardice?

135-8: misunderstanding of riots in London:

From art to ruin to politics to silence:

“Something very shocking to come out in London”

“You speak with astonishing composure”

“The ladies stared” 

“The riot is only in your brain’ 

“A mob of three thousand men”

Real vs imagined monsters?

Feminine fears? Gender roles?


Q: Go to last 100 pp or so (chs. XX-XXXII) and identify a moment where Catherine, Henry, Eleanor, Gen. Tilney, Isabella or John Thorpe learn or provide a piece of information that advances the plot, clears up a mystery, or teaches Catherine something.

Topic: Towards a New Imperial Order

Texts Examined: 

The Woman of Colour; The Asiatic Princess and/or The Female American

The Asiatic Princess constructs an interracial family in which Merje, a Native princess, is tutored by Lady Emma, an English lady. It appears to me like a prequel to The Woman of Colour, in which Olivia has finished her education and needs real-life experiences to resolve the issues brought by her mix-raced identity. The Female American, on the other hand, can be seen as a sequel to The Woman of Colour. Here the heroine becomes Robinson Crusoe, guides the natives on an island to Christianity, and maintains the island’s independence from the British.

Foundational Text: 

The Anglo-Indian Novel, 1774-1825: Ameliorative Imperialisms, by Samir M Soni.

Soni focuses on the idea of “ameliorative imperialism” to describes character in Anglo-Indian novels who seek amelioration rather than radical change in dealing with the colonial crises. He also discusses two related positions: “exploitative imperialists” who advocate maintaining existing colonial institutions (often with full knowledge of colonial atrocities) and “abolitionists” who advocate decolonization (though not necessarily the forced removal of British residents in India). Ameliorative imperialism is brought up under this context to advocate for the continuation of the empire while expressing sympathy for Indians. Soni’s paper helps me in understanding the heroines in The Woman of Colour and The Female American as they both aim to perpetuate colonial rule by becoming better masters than the British.

Supplemental Criticism:

The Exotic Woman in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction and Culture: A Reconsideration, by Piya Pal-Lapinski, University of New Hampshire Press

Piya Pal-Lapinski analyzes nineteenth-century British (and French and Italian) cultural production through the figure of the odalisque, a hybrid form that encompasses not just the Oriental/Asian stereotype of women but also the exoticized European woman. She argues that “the body of the odalisque … resists closure and implodes the imperatives of ethnography, threatening the coherence of ‘whiteness’ as a racial category.” (xvi) The odalisque is also “deeply linked to the tensions arising from the encounter between cultures of female libertinism and emerging bourgeois ideologies of domesticity throughout the nineteenth century.” (xvii) I wonder if the odalisque could be compared with Olivia (a mix-raced character and thus a biological hybrid of British/Non-British norms) and if Olivia — in an alternative ending — could become an odalisque. I am also looking for ways to better structure the odalisque in my discussion of feminist imperialism.

Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse, by Homi Bhabha

Colonial mimicry is the desire for a reformed, recognizable Other, as a subject of a difference that is almost the same, but not quite; a move towards the same while moving back to remain the difference. It is important to understand that the construction of the Other allows the empire to exist. If the Subject and the Other are completely different, that might justify decolonization (who are we to rule over a people completely different from us?) If they are completely the same, then the brutal colonial rule becomes unjustifiable (you cannot rule someone in such a way if they are exactly like you.) Therefore, a slight difference has to be maintained between the Subject and the Other to enable domination. “Human and not wholly human.”

Models of Morality: The Bildungsroman and Social Reform in The Female American and The Woman of Colour, byVictoria Barnett-Woods

Barnett-Woods discusses the Bildungsroman, a long-prose fiction genre developed out of the existing picaresque and adventure tales of previous literary generations. The protagonists of the Bildungsroman are traditionally male, but both The Female American and The Woman of Colour use the form to narrate the stories of colored women. Barnett-Woods’ major arguments are: first, the woman of color in the New World provides an alternative center of moral reformation in the British metropole; second, the Bildungsroman as an 18th-century literary form serves as a vessel for negotiating the transatlantic tensions of race, gender, and empire. I chose this article as it covers both Olivia and Unca and their development as new models of moral citizenry and femininity in a transatlantic Britain.

Homoerotic Female Friendships in 18th Century British Fiction

For my topic, I’m interested in looking at some of the really intense female friendships that we’ve come across in texts (most notably in Clarissa, but also potentially in Maria as well) and examining how they might be read as romantic and/or subtextually homoerotic, and perhaps even suggest that the truest relationships available to women in the 18th century were those with other women.

Foundational Text:

Todd, Janet. Women’s Friendship in Literature. Columbia Univ. Pr., 1980.

In this book (which unfortunately I wasn’t able to look at directly, though the UH library does have a copy of it, so I can get it through them the next time I’m on campus. In lieu of actually looking at the text, I read a number of reviews to get an idea of what was argued) Todd is essentially arguing against Virginia’s Woolf’s assertion that there are no female friendships exist in literature. Todd tracks female relationships in 18th century texts which are not defined by men. She sorts these friendships in five categories including ones like “sentimental friendship” and “erotic friendship.” She discusses Clarissa and Anna Howe’s relationship at length, casting their friendship in the first category. Much of her analysis deals with the ways in which the patriarchy is operating on these female characters and essentially undercutting their relationship. 

Secondary Texts:

Donoghue, Emma. Passions Between Women. Bello, 2014.

Emma Donoghue’s book will be an excellent help in this topic. She covers a lot of ground throughout the book, notably the ways in which the intense female friendships found in British literature of the 18th century can be read as homoerotic. She cites a lot of other critics in her work and part of her analysis seems wrapped up in the ways in which critics have historically side-stepped the issue of Lesbianism/Sapphism in these historical texts as an attempt to shield the authors, and indeed the characters, from criticism. She refers to Clarissa specifically in the chapter “A Sincere and Tender Passion,” taking issue with previous critical interpretations (from Jean Hagstrum in particular) which argue that while Anna Howe and Clarissa’s friendship could be seen as homoerotic it has noting to do with “consummated lesbianism” (217.) Of this Donoghue writes: “such godlike insight into hypothetical sexual practices of fictional female characters is not rare among critics who hate lesbians” (217). 

Woodward, Carolyn. “‘My Heart so Wrapt’: Lesbian Disruptions in Eighteenth-Century British Fiction.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 18, no. 4, 1993, pp. 838–865.,

Woodward spends a lot of time tracking what she terms “lesbian disruptions” in 18th century fiction—this is a fairly ambiguous term, but one that she defines as “gaps in narrative, genre mixing, and avoidance of closure” which are utilized by 18th century authors of fiction (intentionally or unintentionally) as a means to discuss (or not discuss as the case may be) female desire and especially same-sex female desire (842). She talks about the ways in which Clarissa and Anna Howe’s relationship is the most sustained and unproblematic depiction of love in Clarissa and how the novel reestablishes patriarchal expectations/standards by killing off/neutralizing the “lesbian subject” (858). 

Kittredge, Katharine. “Men-Women and Womanish Men: Androgyny in Richardson’s ‘Clarissa.’” Modern Language Studies, vol. 24, no. 2, 1994, p. 20.,

In this essay Kitteredge tracks different forms of androgyny found throughout Clarissa. I’m particularly interested in her read of Anna Howe as “a kind of proto-male woman” (22). Although Kittredge never explicitly mentions lesbianism or the potential homoerotic readings of the the friendship between Anna and Clarissa, this read of Anna as inherently androgynous, or in some way denying her own role of woman seems incredibly relevant to other sources I’ve encountered like Randolph Trumbach, whose historical tracking of lesbianism in 18th century England goes hand-in-hand with the creation of what he terms a fourth gender (the third being the homosexual male). It seems like many discussions of 18th century lesbianism are bound up in these ideas of non-gender conforming women which I’ve seen referred to in many different ways throughout my research.

Annotated Bib: Adaptations of 18th c. texts, including Richardson’s Clarissa

Foundational Text: Marsden, Jean I.. The Re-Imagined Text : Shakespeare, Adaptation, and Eighteenth-Century Literary Theory, University Press of Kentucky, 1995. ProQuest Ebook Central,

Marsden explores the notion of “radical adaptation” in the context of Shakespeare’s plays written between the mid 17th to 18th centuries, looking specifically at the characteristic features of (1) linguistic and moral simplification, (2) rewritten women, and (3) politicization of the story. (1) Marsden argues Restoration adaptors of Shakespeare’s texts did not consider the original language of his plays to be an essential part of his genius, and often times replaced his text with a “more refined and modern English,” ranging from updating his expressions and word choices to, at times, rewriting plays entirely. Playwrights and critics of the time did not believe the language of his work to be an intrinsic element of his genius. (2) the increase in female actresses after the 1660s and resulting societal changes instigated a number of theatrical and changes, including more breeching roles, a resurgence of pathetic drama as a means toward a less obvious form of titillation, the concept that women inhabited a starkly different world than their male counterparts, and a focus on the pathos of passive female virtue (often resulting in a flattening of their characterizations). This final point appears in its most extreme form in “the adapters’ fondness for scenes of attempted rape (39),” which “functions to establish moral distinctions…provid[ing] clear evidence of villainy, making the distinction between good and evil characters more obvious (40).” (3) With the Restoration providing a new political climate, Shakespeare’s adaptors discovered new opportunities in the treatment of his plays and plots, using the texts as a breeding grounds to develop and inform audiences of their views of their contemporary political climates. Marsden continues to explore these characteristics of the adaptations and reveals that despite the enthusiastic growth of these adapted texts, they quickly disappeared less than a century later, as the focus and importance on Shakespeare’s language grew more valued.

Hopkins, Lisa. “The Transference of ‘Clarissa’: Psychoanalysis and the Realm of the Feminine.” Critical Survey, vol. 6, no. 2, 1994, pp. 218–25, Accessed 11 Apr. 2022.

Hopkins delves deeply into the transference of Clarissa from Richardson’s 1500 page novel to the 1991 BBC television adaptation, arguing that although there is much to be admired in adapting such a long text into three hours of television, without sacrificing any of the main plot points of the story, ultimately adapting the novel has flattened most of the characters’ psychologies, most drastically those of the women; the BBC adaptation portrays the main female characters (primarily Clarissa and Anna) as acting in manners over which they have no true psychological understandings over, and therefore, “trapped as perpetual victims of their own misunderstood and repressed desires (219).” Hopkins’ points of comparison between the texts include (1) the narrative perspective, about which she argues that the role of camera is akin to that of Belford—a safe and unaffected vantage point for the audience; (2) Clarissa’s rape, which is surrounded by much more suspense and horror in the novel for its opaqueness and the reader losing access to Clarissa’s POV at the critical moment, whereas in the television adaptation, the focus is wholeheartedly on Clarissa for the majority of the story, therefore rendering the rape scene not as powerful; (3) Clarissa’s dream—which, in the adaptation, seizes only the most obviously visual and sexualized elements from the description in the novel, and thus, seeing Clarissa’s subconscious desire as an excess of fear rather than of Lovelace’s actual malice; and (4) the displacement of the concern with motherhood transferred completely to Clarissa on the screen, therefore making her the most “fully psychologized character in the series, surrounded by monsters.”

Tumbleson, Raymond D. “Potboiler Emancipation and the Prison of Pure Art: ‘Clarissa, The Wind’, and Surviving Rape.” Literature/Film Quarterly, vol. 25, no. 3, 1997, pp. 193–97, Accessed 11 Apr. 2022.

Tumbleson analyzes 1928 film The Wind, in the greater context of the victimization and rape survival narrative that is first established in Richardson’s Clarissa, arguing that the film— which begins as a “reinscription” and ends as a “rewriting” of the Clarissa narrative— subverts the notion of a rape victim’s survival as “morally unjust” and instead, turns the film into a “cultural evolution ironically expressed in the grossest commercial terms, instead of a manual for survival (196).” Tumbleson posits that Richardson’s evolution from the writing of Pamela to Clarissa makes clear that he believes bodily pollution to be “irremediable, final, and fatal (194),” and reconcilable only thorough death. In contrast, The Wind shows the opposite progression. This film, much like Richardson, isolates Letty (the heroine) and much like Clarissa, she is “persecuted by those who should protect her (195)”; thus, at the climax, she is violated both physically by the wind and by Lovelace’s equivalent, Roddy, in an unconscious state, just like her 18th c. counterpart. However, the film drastically changes the narrative at this point—unlike Clarissa, who endures a slow and inevitable death after her rape, Letty survives as a “contented and sexually adult woman who has made her peace with society…revers[ing] the traditional gender roles of ruiner and ruined (195),” as Roddy is the one who eventually dies at Letty’s hands, while she continues to endure.

Stuber, Florian, and Margaret Anne Doody. “The Clarissa Project and Clarissa’s Reception.” Text, vol. 12, 1999, pp. 123–41, Accessed 11 Apr. 2022.

In this article, Stuber and Doody describe to the reader The Clarissa Project, which encompasses a reissue of the third edition of Clarissa and reproduces a published conversation that Richardson had with his contemporary readers in three volumes: Volume I includes the prefaces, notes, and postscripts of different editions, Volume II is comprised of Letter and Passages Restored (1751), and Volume III presents Richardson’s last work, A Collection of the Moral ad Instructive Sentiments (1755) which contains more of the author’s commentary on Clarissa. In gathering materials for this project, the editors have searched and included a variety of materials, in the form of “literary essays, abridgements, rewritings, expostulations, defenses, parodies, verse tributes, comic verse allusions, drawings, paintings, operas and opera scenes, ballads, plays, dramatizations, allusions in other novels, and so on (126).” The variety in type and amount of material shows how difficult it is to categorize Clarissa as being a text for the “low” or “high” cultures exclusively; indeed, it seems that Clarissa operates at most every level of society and provides influence in a multitude of ways. The editors’ goals with this project includes exploring how Clarissa’s impact from century to century can reveal the “enormous cross-section of Western society and its modes of expression (128).”

Dalbey, Annotated Bibliography

Topic: Classical allusions in Richardson’s Clarissa.

Foundational Text

Doody, Margaret Anne. A Natural Passion: A Study of the Novels of Samuel Richardson. Clarendon Press, 1974. In her study of Richardson’s novels, Margaret Doody investigates Richardson’s conception of “love” as “a natural passion” fraught with social, political, and psychological implications. For Richardson, love is “a major irony” which cannot be escaped “except at the risk of making ourselves less human” (10-11). She explores the theme by tracing the sources of Richardson’s works in order to see what he has done with the material (13). Her analysis of Richardson’s sources, however, is contextualized by the fact that Richardson himself never had a formal education, which, Doody notes, reveals itself in the fact that “He never lost the defensive tone about his lack of knowledge of Latin and Greek, or even of French; in compensation, all his heroes are proficient in the classics, and his heroines in modern languages” (5-6). In her analysis of Clarissa, Richardson’s tone of defensiveness appears in the way he tempers a classical education with Christian piety. The libertines such as Belton and Lovelace, are well-versed in classical literature, but it is Clarissa’s piety–informed by Christian devotional literature of the 17th and 18th centuries–which elevates and completes her virtue. In this context, much of the classical literary references are used negatively, though there are moments when Christian piety and pagan philosophy converge, specifically in the character of Belford who, having begun the process of repenting of his libertine behavior,  functions as a mediator for the retelling of the death scenes of Belton, Clarissa, and Mrs. Sinclaire.

Supplemental Criticism

Harris, Jocelyn. “Richardson: Original or Learned Genius?” Samuel Richardson: Tercentenary Essays, edited by Margaret Anne Doody and Peter Sabor, Cambridge University Press, 1989, pp. 188–202.

In this chapter of the Tercentenary Essays, Harris makes the case that Richardson was much more learned and familiar with a broad range of literature that spanned from the classical era to the eighteenth century. She notes that much of the contemporary criticism surrounding Richardson’s use of various literary, philosophical, and theological sources has echoed some of Richardson’s contemporaries that he wasn’t formally educated and therefore did not have as intimate a knowledge with many of the texts he cites. To the contrary, she notes many of the works Richardson printed–including a four volume edition of Virgil’s poetry, a translation of Josephus, and various contemporary dramas and poetry. Harris argues that “Richardson’s novels depend upon ancient and modern books, not only locally but structurally” (190). In rapid succession, Harris notes the frequency with which quotations from Ovid appear in Clarissa at crucial moments of characterization and plot points. Richardson’s allusions, she argues, “are rarely casual, but call up entire works to explain and express his meaning” (202). Although Harris’ argument seems to confirm the growing consensus of scholarship regarding Richardson’s learning since Doody’s monograph, her attention to the structural significance of classical literary allusions in Clarissa help lay the groundwork for additional investigation.

Price, Fiona. “‘Inconsistent Rhapsodies’: Samuel Richardson and the Politics of Romance.” A Companion to Romance: From Classical to Contemporary, edited by Corrine Saunders, John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2004, pp. 269–86.

Price considers Richardson’s fiction within the context of the Romance genre and its political implications. She notes that during the 18th century, “attacks on the epistemology of romance” had become commonplace (269). Yet, Price observes that despite romance’s low status and specifically female readership, it exercised “great influence on the novel” by way of a complicated genealogy. Richardson, she argues, attempts to exploit the genre of romance while continuing to draw on “its idealism  to interrogate authority” (270). In Clarissa, Richardson accomplishes this redress of romantic idealism in the way he contrasts it with classical learning. When a classical education is “untempered by genuine Christianity” (278), it produces equally vicious characters. Although Price’s argument does not investigate the degree to which Richardson was familiar with the classical texts he cites and quotes throughout Clarissa, it fits within both Doody’s and Harris’ observations regarding Richardson’s views and familiarity with classical literature.

Rivers, Isabel. Classical and Christian Ideas in English Renaissance Poetry. 2nd edition, Routledge, 1994,

Rivers has written a guidebook for understanding how Renaissance poets and authors understood and utilized classical and Christian literature in their own literary works. The book is geared specifically to students who are new to the field of Renaissance literature studies and who have little or no familiarity with Latin, Greek, or the Bible. In her introduction, she highlights the fact that the “educated English poet of the period 1580 to 1670” was two things: A) a Christian, and B) a classical scholar (1). For most Renaissance poets—as well as writers extending into the eighteenth century–the classical pagan epics were read in the light of Christian teaching. When blended together, they provided a “range of sometimes complimentary, sometimes contradictory assumptions about and explanations of the physical universe, man’s relationship to God, his moral stature, and the purpose of his earthly activities” (2). Rivers’ chapter on Platonism and Neo-platonism will be especially useful in considering the platonic affinities between Clarissa’s and Socrates’s deathbed scenes, and the way in which Christian devotional literature complimented and diverged from Socrates’ discussion about how one should prepare for death and what the philosopher can expect in the afterlife.

Nelson–Annotated Bibliography

TITLE: Masked Presence: Gender and Genre in 18th-Century Amatory Fiction and Comedy [subject to change]

TEXTS EXAMINED: Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina (1725) + Hannah Cowley’s The Belle’s Stratagem (1780)

Working Abstract: This paper will examine the use of role-play and costume in subverting gender and genre in two women-authored eighteenth-century texts: Eliza Haywood’s “novella” Fantomina (1725) and Hannah Cowley’s comedy of manners production, The Belle’s Stratagem (1780).

Keywords: gender, performance, genre, drama, novel, fiction, identity, sexuality, marriage plot

New Sources:

  • Kathryn S. Hansen, “Dress as Deceptive Visual Rhetoric in Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina,” ABO, vol. 11 iss. 2 (Fall 2021): 1–18. 
  • Irene Soriano Florez, “Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina: Performing Femininity through the Masquerade” JACLR, vol. 5, iss. 2 (December 2017): 64–76.

Key Sources:

  • Ros Ballaster, Seductive Forms: Women’s Amatory Fiction from 1684 to 1740 (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1998).
  • Catherine Craft-Fairchild, Masquerade and Gender: Disguise and Female Identity in Eighteenth-Century Fictions by Women (University Park: Pennsylvania State Univ. Press, 1993).


New Sources:

  • Kathryn S. Hansen, “Dress as Deceptive Visual Rhetoric in Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina,” ABO, vol. 11 iss. 2 (Fall 2021): 1–18. This article usefully explores the twin themes I hope to address in my final paper, that of forms of feminine identity and sexuality as expressed through genre and dress. Hansen locates the power of female expression in eighteenth-century society as intersecting at both the social norms for dress, and the rise of the novel–both of which offered middle to high class British women the opportunity to subvert hegemonic and heteronormative practices. Hansen lands on Haywood’s Fantomina as exemplary of the power of fiction writers to “capitalize upon dress’s potential as an agent of deception, using clothing as a means through which characters control their identity” (1). Hansen touches specifically upon the art of deception in both clothing and writing as practice and form of inherently deceptive modes of maneuver through a sexist society that perpetuates women’s “deceit” as inherent–thus, Haywood’s “novella” works at the level of satire and comedy through punning on genre and gender.
  • Irene Soriano Florez, “Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina: Performing Femininity through the Masquerade” JACLR, vol. 5, iss. 2 (December 2017): 64–76. This article, like Hansen’s, also values the role of costume and dressing up in Haywood’s Fantomina, but explicitly focuses on the “comedic” and “carnivalesque” qualities of Fantomina’s strategy to “masquerade her identity” through self-display as temporally “cheerful.” This article will be an important link to my comparison of Fantomina with Cowley’s The Belle’s Stratagem, which utilizes a masquerade ball scene in its conclusion in order to allow its main heroine Letitia Hardy to trick and capture her love interest Doricourt. The power of performance (both on the level of a theater performance–speaking to genre here; as well as “performativity” speaking to gender roles and costumed identities) allows for female characters in both texts to rewrite the male gaze and subvert marriage plots (either in their favor, or entirely). 

Key Sources:

  • Ros Ballaster, Seductive Forms: Women’s Amatory Fiction from 1684 to 1740 (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1998). Ballaster is of course an invaluable source for a paper like this. Not only is this text surely a key text in the study of women’s writing and theater, but also her newly published Fictions of Presence (2020) which will also surely become a “key text” in the field. Specifically, Seductive Forms will provide a history to consider genre and gender alongside one another in eighteenth-century studies, providing a kind of history of the “rise of the woman novelist” (22). Ballaster’s chapter on “Cross-dressing and Cabals: Allegories of Female Writing,” and “Preparatives to Love: Fiction as Seduction in Eliza Haywood’s Amatory Prose,” will both usefully illuminate the intersections of developing genre and form during this period and its implications at a meta-level within the works of 18th-century British women writers. 
  • Catherine Craft-Fairchild, Masquerade and Gender: Disguise and Female Identity in Eighteenth-Century Fictions by Women (University Park: Pennsylvania State Univ. Press, 1993). Craft-Fairchild’s text is still relevant for asking readers to re-examine the true subversive qualities of Masquerade in eighteenth-century women’s writing. Through a close study of a selection of texts, Fantomina included, Craft-Fairchild presents a case for masquerade fictions as both subverting and upholding dominant patriarchal values. The very necessity of masquerade suggests that these women writers must draw characters who ultimately submit to the dominant economy of male desire, an argument which could be made against Letitia who changes herself into a “worldly” woman in order to seduce Doricourt into the typical marriage plot. Craft-Fairchild takes the masculine-dominated masquerade of femininity to be an all but omnipresent and intransigent textual condition that typically “appears in women’s writing as a disempowering capitulation to patriarchal structures that posit female subordination” (p. 172). She thus finally sees “the darker side of masquerade” (p. 25) as an all-encompassing framework for interpreting the psychology of gender and sexual relations.

Annotated Bib #2: The Dual Nature/Roles of Male Protectors UPDATED

Ellis, Kate Ferguson. The contested castle: Gothic novels and the subversion of domestic ideology. University of Illinois Press, 1989.

In this book, Ellis explores domestic ideology, specifically the imprisoning nature of domesticity and violence towards women in the family. She equates the castles of Gothic novels with failed homes permeated with danger and enemies scheming for entry into the fortress to extract their revenge. Ellis looks at a shift in the domestic ideology, paying particular attention to how this change affects women. She first explored ideas about this new domestic ideology in an article ten years earlier; however, this book has stood the test of time and has been referenced by scholars ever since. This text will be helpful in examining failed patriarchy, such as bad fathers like Manfred from The Caste of Otranto or flawed male protectors like Monsieur Pierre de la Motte from The Romance of the Forest, for the book specifically considers the works of Walpole and Radcliffe.

L. Andrew Cooper. “Gothic Threats: The Role of Danger in the Critical Evaluation of The Monk and The Mysteries of Udolpho.Gothic Studies, vol. 8, no. 2, 2006, pp. 18-34. Literature Online (LION), Accessed 6 April 2022.

In this article, Cooper looks at four “threats” of Gothic literature to society, ones that have the potential to disrupt the social norms. The first two threats target young adults and gender norms, while the latter two evoke superstition and revolution. Although Cooper chiefly references Lewis’ The Monk and Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho, his insights on Gothic literature as a whole, but in particular those pertaining to gender norms, will be useful in crafting an argument about the new domestic ideology of the eighteenth century. To open the discussion on Gothicism’s threat to gender norms, Cooper draws upon Ellis to set the stage for his claims, showing how important Ellis’ The Contested Castle is to any discussion on eighteenth-century domestic ideology.

Perry, Ruth. Novel Relations: The Transformation of Kinship in English Literature and Culture, 1748-1818. Cambridge University Press, 2004. ProQuest Ebook Central, Accessed 6 April 2022.

Perry picks up Ellis’ idea with an interdisciplinary approach, drawing upon both history and anthropology in addition to her literary analysis. Perry conducts her research between the works of Samuel Richardson and Jane Austen, noting a shift in familial relationships both real and fictional caused by a new understanding of what the meaning of family entails, one that puts an emphasis on marriage rather than kin. This change in ideas alters the male’s perspective of women and places new burdens upon them as a result. Perry counts Ellis among her extensive bibliography, noting her insights on the function of the Church and Catholicism in Gothic novels as well as indicating Ellis’ claims about the idea of the home in Gothic literature as the foundation for her own concept of the genre’s “terror of incest.” This book is an essential read among the modern scholarship about the eighteenth-century ideas of the domestic and presents a more wholistic survey of literature of the period, rather than focusing on the Gothic as Ellis does.

Shaffer, Julie. “Familial love, incest, and female desire in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century British women’s novels.” Criticism, vol. 41, no. 1, 1999, pp. 67-99. Literature Online (LION), Accessed 6 April 2022.

In this article, Shaffer investigates the nature of the Gothic and sentimental novels through familialization and incest. Her discussion particularly looks at the relationship between father-figures and daughters and how the relationship can be disrupted or at the very least display a potential for disruption. While she principally utilizes Elizabeth Helme’s Louisa; or, the Cottage on the Moor and Sarah Sheriffe’s Correlia as source material, Shaffer often makes reference to other major authors of the period (e.g., Walpole, Radcliffe, Burney). Likewise, Shaffer draws upon a wide variety of scholarship to craft her argument, showing the larger conversation that has taken place about the correlation between familialization and incest. Shaffer cites Ellis as having marked this theme as conventional of Gothic literature, and places Ellis’ claim for a shift in domestic ideology as central to understanding the genre.

Annotated Bib #2: Foundational Texts & Topics of Criticism for 18th century Women Novelists through Austen; UPDATED 1 foundational text + 3 annotated entries

Purpose: When choosing a particular topic to research, the problem that we all run into is “what am I interested in, and why?” What are the aspects of this course, text or field, or the questions they raise, that make it intriguing to you? What are the experiences, knowledge, or aspirations that make it more likely for you to follow through? What’s at stake in your desire to learn more?

In my experience, scholars who have reflected upon and developed answers to these kinds of questions are more likely to follow through, learn from the inevitable obstacles, and feel the satisfaction of completing the project and sharing its results.

Assignment: Develop a topic of interest for this annotated bibliography from the earlier portion of our course readings, and try to make it at least potentially relevant to the final project, which will entail reaching out to a text beyond our syllabus.

One further demand: your choice of topic should include consideration of a foundational critical/theoretical/historical text that has inspired critical debate or discussion for an extended period of time. Thus, your critical selections and annotations should be oriented not just towards the topic, but also how this foundational text has helped establish the terms of future discussion and elaboration.

To find examples of arguments and contexts that have influenced criticism of late 18th century British women’s fiction through Austen, you have to read in media res, and hunt through their arguments and their footnotes: contexts could include e.g., feminist social history, history of reading, history of the book , feminist literary criticism, feminist critical theory, adaptation theory.

So by April 11th: 3 annotated secondary sources (either articles, books or book chapters) oriented towards your topic, and ideally focused through the foundational text and the debates it has inspired.

UPDATE: after reading Serena’s excellent post, I realized that I’d made the assignment ambiguous, by asking for three entries, but I always intended the bib to include one foundational text annotated + three annotated entries, for a total of four. Let me know if this is still ambiguous.

We will discuss these at classtime on the 11th.

Thanks, and good luck!


Anonymous, The Woman of Colour: A Tale (1808)

I’m teaching this in my undergrad class this week, too, so I’m just providing my lecture notes here in case they might help people’s reading or research. We’ll use the questions here for weekend blogging or discussion. Good luck!

[page nos. refer to Lyndon Dominique Broadview edition]



1760: Tacky’s Rebellion, 1st major island-wide slave rebellion in Jamaica

1772: Lord Mansfield’s decision in Somersett Case renders slavery unenforceable in England or Wales

1791: Haitian Revolution

1795: 2nd Maroon War, Jamaica

1806: Foreign Slave Trade Abolition Bill Debates (cf. Dominique, Intro, 20-1)

1806: Andrew Wright inheritance case, possible model for WoC (cf. Dominique, Intro 33; App. G, 262)

1808: The Woman of Colour published

Publication: Published anonymously in 1808. Reviews in Lyndon, App. F, 257). The Chronology along with Lyndon’s Intro shows how much awareness British readers might have had for the situation of a biracial Jamaican heiress, which was not an uncommon situation in late 18c/early 19c Britain. When creole and biracial colonial elites from the sugar colonies traveled to Britain, they raised questions about who could be considered British and what constituted properly British behavior, as Jeremiah Grant also showed.

Discussion: Lyndon’s Intro comprehensively surveys the black heroines of 17-18c British literature, beginning with Behn’s Imoinda (whose fertility drives the plot towards tragedy), Southerne’s theatrical adaptation of Imoinda that turns her into a white, Desdemona-like heroine (synthesizing Oroonoko w/Shakespeare’s Othello), and ending with the question of where black female heroines were represented in British literature. Clearly this novel is one of the first pre-20c fictions that centers on a black woman character as a heroine rather than incidental or minor character.

The rest of the Intro explores the significance of the title and her description as a “woman of colour,” in other words as a biracial woman born of a white father and enslaved black mother. Her name, “Olivia,” echoes her “olive” skin and she is contrasted throughout with the appearance and speech of her enslaved maid, Dido. The Intro also discusses the novelistic genres that the Woman of Colour draws upon:

  • the sentimental novel (often epistolary, meaning told in letters, and derived from Richardson and Burney), which describes a young woman’s sometimes difficult entry into polite society, courtship, and ultimately marriage; Burney also used the will as plot device in Evelina and Cecilia;
  • the radical novel (from Wollstonecraft and Hays) that extends the sentimental novel’s exploration of the most unjust and exploitive aspects of marriage and family and their foundation in unthinking prejudice; and
  • the Caribbean novel, which in some sense is centered on the colonial experience of the West Indian who ultimately returns to the West Indies rather than staying in the England metropolis of London.

Characters in Packet the First:

Olivia, biracial heroine with a complicated fortune

Dido, her enslaved maid

Mrs Honeywood, a benevolent companion on the voyage

Honeywood, her son

Augustus Merton, the cousin she is betrothed to via her father’s will

Mrs Merton, a parvenu and city-heiress, rich, vulgar, and hostile to Olivia

Mr Merton, a benevolent and wealthy merchant, her uncle

Q1: Looking at the title page, why is this fiction described as “a Tale”? What features of this book suggest a “tale” rather than a “novel,” or even as a “history” or “adventures” or “life” of its heroine?

Packet the First (53-94) [packet=packet ship, carrying letters; or packet of letters]

As she sails to England, Olivia Fairfield writes to her friend Mrs Milbanke about her traveling companion Mrs Honeywood, her son Honeywood, and her enslaved maid, Dido. She explains the relationship between her now deceased plantation-owning father, Fairfield, and her enslaved mother, Marcia, and the strange will he left that stipulates she either marry his nephew Augustus Merton and convey her 60,000 L fortune to him, or forfeit the fortune and be supported by his brother Mr George Merton. After a voyage, conversation with the Honeywoods, and a storm, they all land in Bristol, where she meets the Mertons. Olivia is insulted by Mrs Merton with a dinner of rice that associates her with the enslaved, and Olivia politely rebuffs her (75); their child George mistakes her skin color for dirt (78) and Olivia again refuses to take the bait or lose her temper with him (78-81). A humiliating English ball (84-88). She finally confronts Augustus but receives no real commitment from him either to marry or reject.

Q2: How and where does Olivia demonstrate her qualities as a heroine, either on the ship with Dido and the Honeywoods, in her embarrassing encounters with the Mertons and others, or in her interactions with Augustus? What kinds of expectations do others have of her?

Packet the Second and Third (94-127)


Mr George Merton

Mrs George Merton

Sir Marmaduke Ingot

Lady Ingot

Miss Danby

Mr Waller, the tutor

Frederic Ingot, a posh useless man-child

Mr Bellfield, a despised older relative of Ingots

Mr Lumley, the neighborhood pastor

Caroline Lumley, his daughter

A doomed marriage ceremony in Clifton, and Olivia meets her repulsive in-laws the George Mertons in London. We learn in her letter her jealousy and hatred of Olivia (101). We learn of Augustus’s lack of passion for Olivia but his fear of putting her in his brother’s and sister in law’s power (104). In wild romantic Devonshire, she meets the “nabobs” (rich, vulgar colonial adventurers returned from India) the Ingots who live in a “pagoda” and interfering in local politics. Mrs Honeywood dies, and Olivia attends a nabob dinner party filled with horrible people, including Miss Danby, who flirts and drops hints about Angelina Forrester, who was once involved with Augustus (113-15). She also meets Mr Waller the tutor to the useless Mr Frederic Ingot, and the elderly despised relative of the Ingots Mr Bellfield (116-20), and later Mr Lumley, the worthy, hardworking pastor of the neighborhood and his shy innocent daughter Caroline (121-2). Mrs Merton promises (or threatens) to visit.

Q3: How do Olivia’s manners and morality contrast with those of the merchant family the Mertons, their young friends, or the rich nabob family the Ingots? What do the manners of the elite or fashionable young people suggest about the social consequences of imperial wealth and trade for the people in England or the colonies?

Q4: Looking at the title page, why is this fiction described as “a Tale”? What features of this book suggest a “tale” rather than a “novel,” or even as a “history” or “adventures” or “life” of its heroine?

UPDATE: Here’s Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary (1755) definition of “Tale”:

Screenshot_2020-04-17 A dictionary of the English language in which the words are deduced from their originals, explained i[...]

Q5: How and where does Olivia demonstrate her qualities as a heroine, either on the ship with Dido and the Honeywoods, in her embarrassing encounters with the Mertons and others, or in her interactions with Augustus? What kinds of expectations do others have of her?

Q6: How do Olivia’s manners and morality contrast with those of the merchant family the Mertons, their young friends, or the rich nabob family the Ingots? What do the manners of the elite or fashionable young people suggest about the social consequences of imperial wealth and trade for the people in England or the colonies?


Melissa M. Adams-Campbell, New World Courtships: Transatlantic Alternatives to Companionate Marriage (Hanover, NH, UNITED STATES: Dartmouth College Press, 2015),

Brigitte Fielder, “The Woman of Colour and Black Atlantic Movement”Brigitte Fielder, “The Woman of Colour and Black Atlantic Movement,” Women’s Narratives of the Early Americas and the Formation of Empire, May 23, 2016, 171–85,