Monday, January 30, 2006

Other women

Elisabeth Elstob (1683 - 1756)
Catherine Trotter Cockburn (1679–1749)
Anna Seward (1742–1809)

Draft of proposal ... eeek

There is something there - beyond the separate spheres .... saying that the birth of separate spheres confined women to the domestic sphere assumes that women had a wider range available to them before that time.

We know that (married) women were legally invisible, and that they were not supposed to take a public role or have public opinions. There was no title for a woman thinker/writer/polemicist, no assigned space for them. So were they just accepted as harmless abberations or were they able to CREATE a space, out of existing labels, that let their voices be heard.

Was the tightening of the rules a result of industrialisation and the public sphere or was is that these women were too succesful - that they ended up threatening the social fabric because they were too good at spinning their yarns?

Bibliography or summat

Books I run into and think I need to keep track of:

Gallagher, Catharine. Nobody's Story: The Vanishing Acts of Women Writers in the Marketplace, 1670-1820. Berkeley and Los Angeles: U of California P, 1994

Folger Collective on Early Women Critics. Women Critics 1660-1820: An Anthology.
Bloomington Indiana University Press, 1995.

This webpage has correspondance TO Elizabeth Montagu from Elizabeth Carter:

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Methods and theoretical framework

This is where I figure out what to do with Bourdieu and Giddens and Greenblatt et al.

Greenblatt should serve as a base for looking at how these women framed themselves, then perhaps use B to look at how the field was set up - I need to figure out a consistent language to talk about these women and what they did.

Self-fashioning, a term introduced by Stephen Greenblatt (Renaissance Self-Fashioning,1980), is the creation of oneself according to a set of socially acceptable standards. Female selves, constructed as females, did not have attributes such as smart, independent, philosophical, etc. So my suspicion is that women fashioned alternate - public - selves that downplayed the feminine and emphasized other traits. Todd talks about women hanging out signs, Queen Elizabeth described herself as a prince - emphasizing her royal blood over her gender, and Joan of Arc emphasized being a messenger of God.

- general understanding of the disjoint between the official narrative and what people did, how the official narrative describes a structure that is always negotiated, always manipulated and contested by individual agents. Any description of the structure is going to leave out how that structure was contested and challenged - from within - and so far most history focuses either on describing the structure OR on describing individual challenges, not (which is what I want to do) how the structure lends itself to and enables the challenge.
Furthers interdisciplinarity - using literary theory and close reading to understand history and crossing the divide between history and anthropology (explain how). A historical reading of texts, and a literary understanding of historical individuals (these are non fiction writing women after all, not so often studied by literary scholars.
Future research could/should look at how other groups negotiated the same territory - how did men during this time and place construct selves that increased their legitimacy? How was their authority challenged?

My ideas and questions

This is where I put ideas and things I need to look at or look up.

1. Clearly there is an issue of floating genres going on - women could write novels because they were low brow (compared to classsically inspired epics and poetry) and history came somewhere in between politics and morals. So women could negotiate the contested territory, claim they were providing moral guidance (Looser 16, 17) and not interfering in politics.

Sometimes this was a DIS advantage - as when history was trying to upgrade its status and claimed a professional/expert position - women could not compete on that level.

2. The floating genres issue shows up in other ways too - Looser talks about what KIND Of writing is considered historical writing; antiquarians collecting facts, the search for meaning, narrative history, biography and memoirs etc ...

Names and theories - women & history

This will be the place for me to stick different people's positions.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Damn ... I guess I was in worse shape than I thought - I managed to let all of December go by without doing anything whatsoever about my proposal. The holidays were really useful as an excuse and helping the other half with his stuff and training as an editor, but whoa .. I really did just disappear.

Oh well, I am now officially back on track. I will go read some stuff right now, and report back tomorrow.