Women's Literary Education, c. 1690–1850

Edited by Louise Joy, Jessica Lim

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Studies how women writers shaped long-eighteenth-century educational discourse through literature

  • Brings together researchers from a range of disciplinary areas: literary studies, history, book history, eighteenth-and-nineteenth-century studies, gender studies, the history of philosophy, the history of education, theological studies, and childhood studies
  • Focuses its study on the literary forms, techniques and genres deployed by female authors in the period
  • Examines female educationalists’ interaction with: forms such as the novel, the conversational primer, children’s poetry, non-fiction textbooks; the Classics; theories of translation; psychology; theories of pedagogy; practices in relation to literacy; and politics

This volume brings together leading critical voices from a range of disciplines to examine the complex and profoundly significant ways in which female literary artists interrogated and advanced educational philosophy and practice. The volume recreates the plurality and non-linearity of the conversations and forms of literary expression that took place in and through this body of educational writing. Literature and education in the long eighteenth century share certain perceived aims: the transmission of knowledge, strengthening of understanding, acculturation, and sometimes empowerment. They also share structural forms: lessons; conversations; letters; dramatizations; confessions; narratives; imitations; sometimes fantasies. In the long eighteenth century, authors of literary texts were often authors of educational treatises who saw their activities in both spheres as interrelated. As such, the parties of teacher and pupil, author and reader frequently overlap. This book provides a historically sensitive understanding of the fraught relations between these parties, drawing attention to the period’s debates about authority and freedom as they relate to matters of gender, race, religion, age, and class. This project provides a nuanced understanding of women’s literary contributions to the period’s strands of educational thought, enabling us to better understand the many and complicated ways in which authors and readers of the period envisaged that literary texts might fulfil, fail, or refuse to fulfil, educational functions.

Jessica Lim and Louise Joy

Part I – Moulding Forms
1. Important Familial Conversations: Anna Letitia Barbauld, Sarah Trimmer, and Ellenor Fenn - Jessica Lim
2. Reading Poetry for Children in the long eighteenth century - Felicity James
3. Women Writing Geography Texts, 1790-1830 - Michéle Cohen
4.‘What follows’: Maria Edgeworth’s works for older children - Aileen Douglas

Part II – Acknowledging the Past
1. Imitation and Translation: L.E.L. and E.B.B. - Jennifer Wallace
2. ‘Wisdom consists in the right use of knowledge’: Socrates as a symbol of Quaker pedagogy in Maria Hack’s Grecian Stories - Rachel Bryant Davies
3. Bluestocking Epistolary Education: Elizabeth Carter and Catherine Talbot - Jack Orchard

Part III – Responding to the Present
1.Learning through laughter: Sarah Fielding’s life lessons - Rebecca Anne Barr
2. Emotional Regulation: Jane Austen, Jane West, and Mary Brunton - Katie Halsey and Jennifer Robertson
3. Staging Women’s Education in Two Anti-Jacobin Novels: More’s Coelebs in Search of a Wife (1809) and Hawkins’s Rosanne; Or, a Father’s Labour Lost (1814) - Laura White

Part IV – Shaping the Future
1. Pedagogy as (Cosmo)Politics: Cultivating Benevolence in Mary Wollstonecraft’s Educational Works - Laura Kirkley
2. ‘The enemy of imagination’? Re-imagining Sarah Trimmer and her Fabulous Histories - Jonathan Padley
3. A Literary Life: A Transatlantic Tale of Vivacity, Rousing Curiosity and Engaging Affection - Lissa Paul

This rich collection charts the creative mixture of experimentalism and tenderness that informed the growing field of educational literature authored by women 1690-1850. Education in and through literary print forms promoted imaginative collaboration between adults and children. Where women were made responsible for education or claimed it, they also complicated the femininity that was learned. A dazzling variety of genres and voices are brought to new prominence.

Ros Ballaster, University of Oxford, Mansfield College
Louise Joy is a Fellow, Director of Studies and College Associate Professor in English at Homerton College, University of Cambridge, where she is the Vice-Principal. She is the author of Eighteenth-Century Literary Affections (Palgrave, 2020), Literature’s Children: The Critical Child and the Art of Idealisation (Bloomsbury, 2019), the co-editor of The Aesthetics of Children's Poetry: A Study of Children's Verse in English (Routledge, 2018) and Poetry and Childhood (Trentham Press, 2010).

Jessica Lim supervises English Literature at the University of Cambridge and has previously been a Director of Studies in English at Lucy Cavendish College. Her research focuses on women’s writing and children’s literature from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and she is particularly interested in literary explorations of theological and pedagogical concerns. Her articles have appeared in Journal of Eighteenth Century Studies, The Charles Lamb Bulletin, Notes and Queries, and Oxford Research in English.

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