Advertisement

The Nineties Generation: A Feminist Prosaics

  • Josephine Donovan

Abstract

While the realist tradition in english women’s prose fiction really began in the mid-seventeenth century with Margaret Cavendish, it was not until later in the century that a continuing tradition of realist prose fiction by women could be said to have developed. In the last two decades of the century and into the early eighteenth century such a tradition emerged. Pioneered by Delarivier Manley, Catherine Trotter, and to a lesser extent, Aphra Behn, it was most fully developed by the unfortunately neglected Irish woman, Mary Davys, and culminated in the works of lane Barker. These women invented women’s realism in English literature, a realism that did much to establish the character of the English novel. In their works the woman of sense (as opposed to sensibility) takes charge, and she expresses the viewpoint of feminist critical irony, by then firmly established by the women writers of the framed-novelle tradition. What these British writers add is a kind of commonsensical, comical perspective wherein the woman of sense serves as eiron to the alazon of romantic sensibility. More often than not her (and the author’s) critical perspective undermines generic stereotypes of women, offering instead a feminist prosaics wherein the specific realities of women’s lives are treated with serious attention.

Keywords

English Woman Woman Writer Early Eighteenth Century Female Protagonist Realist Tradition 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    See Ruth Perry, The Celebrated Mary Astell, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986), pp. 14–15; also The Polemics and Poems of Rachel Speght, ed. Barbara Kiefer Lewalski (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Ruth Perry, “Radical Doubt and the Liberation of Women,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 18, no. 4 (1985): 471–93;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Margaret Atherton, ed., Women Philosophers of the Early Modern Period (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1994);Google Scholar
  4. Hilda Smith, Reason’s Disciples (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1982).Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    Mary Astell, “A Serious Proposal to the Ladies” and “Some Reflections upon Marriage” (excerpts), in The Meridian Anthology of Early Women Writers, ed. Katherine M. Rogers and William McCarthy (New York: Penguin, 1987), p. 120. Further references follow in the text.Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    See Melissa A. Butler, “Early Liberal Roots of Feminism: John Locke and the Attack on Patriarchy,” in Feminist Interpretation and Political Theory, ed. Mary Lyndon Shanley and Carole Pateman (University Park: Penn State University Press, 1991), pp. 74–94.Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    B. G. MacCarthy, The Female Pen (1946–47; reprint, New York: New York University Press, 1994), p. 263.Google Scholar
  8. 7.
    Madame [Marie-Catherine le Jumel de Barneville, Baroness] d’Aulnoy, Travels into Spain, ed. R. Foulché-Delbosc (London: Routledge, 1930), p. 3; Madame d’Aulnoy, Relation du voyage d’Espagne, ed. R. Foulché-Delbosc (Paris: C. Klincksieck, 1926), p. 155VuiVui. Further references follow in the text.Google Scholar
  9. 8.
    Percy G. Adams, Travel Literature and the Evolution of the Novel (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1983), pp. 74, 76. See his chapter, “Truth-Lie Dichotomy” for a further discussion of this issue. D’Aulnoy’s modern French editor, R. Foulché-Delbosc (see n. 7) holds a similar position.Google Scholar
  10. 9.
    [Delarivier Manley], Letters Writen [sic] by Mrs. Manley (London: R. B., 1696), p. 29. Further references follow in the text. Robert Adams Day, Told in Letters (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1966), p. 43, states that Manley “indubitably imitated” d’Aulnoy.Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    See Emma Donohue, Passions between Women (New York: Harper, 1993), pp. 131–32, 238.Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    Fidelia Morgan, A Woman of No Character (London: Faber and Faber, 1986), p. 103.Google Scholar
  13. 20.
    Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (New York: Harcourt, 1957), p. 69.Google Scholar
  14. 21.
    See Naomi Jacobs, “The Seduction of Aphra Behn,” Women’s Studies 18 (1991): 395–03;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. also Judith Kegan Gardiner, “The First English Novel: Aphra Behn’s Love Letters, the Canon, and Women’s Tastes,” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 8, no. 2 (Fall 1989): 201–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 23.
    Aphra Behn, Oroonoko and Other Stories, ed. Maureen Duffy (London: Methuen, 1986), p. 125VuiVui.Google Scholar
  17. 24.
    Lennard Davis, Factual Fictions (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), p. 107.Google Scholar
  18. 29.
    William McBurney, “Mrs. Mary Davys: Forerunner of Fielding,” PMLA 74 (Sept. 1979): 354.Google Scholar
  19. 30.
    Jane Spencer, The Rise of the Woman Novelist (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), p. 146.Google Scholar
  20. 31.
    Mary Davys, The Reform’d Coquet (1724; facsimile reprint, New York: Garland, 1973), pp. 80–81. Further references follow in the text.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Josephine Donovan 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Josephine Donovan

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations