Matched Pairs: Gender and Intertextual Dialogue in Eighteenth-Century Fiction

Matched Pairs: Gender and Intertextual Dialogue in Eighteenth-Century Fiction

Matched Pairs: Gender and Intertextual Dialogue in Eighteenth-Century Fiction

Matched Pairs: Gender and Intertextual Dialogue in Eighteenth-Century Fiction

Synopsis

"This study attempts to integrate women writers with their male counterparts, specifically by pairing individual novels by women with those by men and exploring multiple dimensions and implications of intertextuality across gender lines during the formative century of novel-writing in England. Such a method results in describing, analyzing, and elevating early women novelists' achievements in different but no less crucial ways than purely feminocentric approaches have done, and in demonstrating how fiction by men was inspired, shaped, imitated, or criticized by women. Close reading of the texts is complemented by broader historical and critical perspectives. Bartolomeo supports the case for cross-gender comparison by pointing to precedents in eighteenth-century critical discourse on the novel from both men and women. The study concludes by relating differences among the dialogues to the "horizon of expectation" faced by novelists of different genders at different times, and by considering how the women novelists' engagement in various forms with male authors required a posture combining self-assertion and self-effacement." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

This study has its origins in the classroom. in 1989, flush with enthusiasm over the recent wave of recovery of and critical attention to eighteenth-century fiction by women, I offered a graduate seminar devoted entirely to the earliest women novelists. in the course of preparing for the class, and even more so of teaching it, I noticed numerous parallels, formal and thematic, large and small, between several of the novels by women and the male-authored fiction that tended then and still largely tends to comprise the canon. Since some of the students had never read some or all of the canonical texts, I regularly felt obliged to draw their attention to what I considered the most significant correspondences. Teaching this course prompted me to investigate more thoroughly the nature and implications of intertextual dialogue between male and female eighteenthcentury novelists, and my subsequent reading and research have only strengthened my conviction that the subject merits sustained exploration.

Ann Messenger’s His and Hers (1986), which offered the first extensive side-by-side consideration of individual women and men writing in the “long” eighteenth century, provided a helpful conceptual and methodological model. Messenger justifies her comparative approach by criticizing the ghettoizing consequences of feminist studies confined solely to women writers, and by situating eighteenth-century writers of both sexes as members of a community that involved a considerable degree of interaction: “They satirized each other, imitated each other, plagiarized from each other, edited and criticized and wrote sequels to each other.” If this is true of the literary culture of the period generally, it is especially applicable to the genre of the novel, the recency, flexibility, popularity, and ambiguous critical standing of . . .

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