The Case of Violenta

  • Josephine Donovan


The transitions in women‘s literary history proposed at the end of the last chapter can be illustrated by tracing the genealogy of a novella—which I call the Violenta novella—from its sources in the early Renaissance to its reproduction by Delarivier Manley in her collection of novellas, The Power of Love (1720) and Eliza Haywood’s similar collection, Love in Its Variety (1727). It has been proposed that a peak of feminist realism was reached in the 1720s, but it was soon superceded by a sentimentalist tradition that many have seen as a capitulation to patriarchal interests, a backing away from the feminist literary wave that began cresting in the 1690s and early eighteenth century.


Poor Woman Female Agency Woman Writer Early Eighteenth Century Indirect Discourse 
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  1. 1.
    An example of the “backlash” is the 1697 lampoon The Female Wits (see chap, six, n. 11). See also Jane Spencer, The Rise of the Woman Novelist (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986), pp. 5–6.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See especially Alice Clark’s classic study Working Life of Women in the Seventeenth Century (1919; reprint, London: Frank Cass, 1968), pp. 11–13, 295–308;Google Scholar
  3. Ruth Perry, Women, Letters, and the Novel (New York: AMS Press, 1980), pp. 27–62;Google Scholar
  4. Bridget Hill, Women, Work, and Sexual Politics in Eighteenth-Century England (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989), pp. 10–11, 48, 262; Spencer, Rise of the Woman Novelist, pp. 11–15, 91–92, 118–22;Google Scholar
  5. and Josephine Donovan, “Women and the Rise of the Novel: A Feminist-Marxist Theory,” Signs 16, no. 3 (Spring 1991): 447–49, esp. 448, n. 14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    According to Edwin B. Place, “Maria de Zayas: An Outstanding Woman Writer of Seventeenth-Century Spain,” University of Colorado Studies 13 (1923): 11.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Maria de Zayas y Sotomayor, A Shameful Revenge and Other Stories, trans. John Sturrock (London: Folio Society, 1963), p. 64;Google Scholar
  8. Maria de Zayas, Parte segunda del Sarao y entretenimiento honesto [Desenganos amorosos], ed. Alicia Yllera (Madrid: Câtedra, 1983), p. 189VuiVui; Further references follow in the text.Google Scholar
  9. 13.
    Robert Adams Day, Told in Letters (Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1966), p. 253.Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    Eliza Haywood, Love in Its Variety: Being a Collection of Select Novels; Written in Spanish by Signior Michael Bandello (London: W. Feales, 1727), p. 106. Further references follow in the text. In Love Intrigues: Or, the History of the Amours of Bosvil and Galesia (1713) (in The Galesia Trilogy and Selected Manuscript Poems of Jane Barker, ed. Carol Shiner Wilson [New York: Oxford University Press, 1997], pp. 1–47), Jane Barker’s jilted protagonist Galesia fantasizes doing a job on faithless Bosvil (p. 31) that is reminiscent of Violenta’s treatment of Roderigo; Barker’s novella may therefore be another link in the Violenta genealogy. See further discussion in chapter ten. Another version of the Violenta story—Penelope Aubin’s-appeared at about the same time as Haywood’s; it portrays the protagonist as a weak, passive collaborator, further evidence of the changing ideological climate and weakening feminist authority noted above. See Debbie Walham, “The Political Afterlife of Resentment in Penelope Aubin’s Life and Amorous Adventures of Luanda,” Women’s Writing 20, no. 1 (2013): 49–63.Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    See Nancy K. Miller, The Heroine’s Text: Readings in the French and English Novel, 1722 – 1782 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980), pp. ix, xi.Google Scholar

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© Josephine Donovan 1999

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  • Josephine Donovan

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