Reminder: WSG seminar December 2020

The third seminar of the year takes place on Saturday, 1pm (GMT), 5 December 2020.

This meeting will be delivered on Zoom. All meetings will start promptly at 1pm GMT (with arrivals from 12.30 onward to allow for necessary preparations and administration). We aim to finish by 3.30pm. If you would like to attend, please make sure your membership is up-to-date to receive the Zoom link.

December 5, 2020
Daniel Beaumont: Melancholy and Despair among Early Modern English Women: A case study of Hannah Allen’s Satan’s Methods and Malice Baffled (1683).

In an age where mental health is receiving more attention than ever, it is essential to remember that perceptions of mental health are themselves historical constructions. This paper examines a key part of that historical construction in early modern England, exploring the case of Hannah Allen, who, according to her published narrative Satan’s Methods and Malice Baffled (1683), suffered from temptations by the Devil and a “deep melancholy” for much of her life. Allen’s striking and disquieting narrative traces her decline into life-threatening despair, in which she believed herself worthless and a “cursed reprobate”, before describing her gradual recovery and restoration of faith. Amidst a field still largely dominated by research into medical and spiritual treatises and literary works written by men, Allen’s text offers a rich opportunity for exploration into the perceptions and mentalities of melancholy and despair amongst early modern women and their communities.
This paper asks how we might best explore this work, paying attention to the textual structure and context of production as well as the substance of the narrative itself. I present two underexamined lines of inquiry: The first is the cultural and religious lens through which Allen perceived her own state of mind and the ways in which she presents that state to the reader. This interpretive schema exhibits a complex combination of ideas about Allen’s despair and melancholy that is informed by, but not restricted to, contemporary physiological and spiritual theories and authorial customs. The second line of investigation examines the glimpse the text provides into the social and emotional communities surrounding melancholy and mental distress amongst non-aristocratic English women of the seventeenth century at a local and familial level. Crucially, such attitudes seldom appear in the more frequently examined medical or religious treatises on melancholy, and what scholarship there is on Allen’s text has largely refrained from examining this more social aspect of her narrative. However, if we wish to understand the place and conceptualisation of this “affliction” (as Allen describes it) among early modern English women, an investigation into both areas is essential.

Yvonne Noble: Elizabeth Elstob, Mary Delany, and Money.

Valerie Schutte: Popular Literature at the Accession of Queen Mary.

An analysis of the literature written to celebrate Queen Mary I’s accession makes clear that several genres of writing were used and each seemed to have a different audience in mind. Of course, there were royal proclamations, such as those that announced both Jane and Mary as Queens of England, meant to be read or heard by all. Ballads, which were mass produced “because of people’s interest in the news and because of a genuine mood of celebration.” There were both official and non-official letters shared among Mary, her council, and all of the resident ambassadors, each meant for their specific recipient. Sermons were given and often later printed in Latin, meant for a learned audience, specifically those interested in the religious ramifications of Mary’s accession. And, plays and panegyrics were written and performed at court, meant for an audience of courtiers that surrounded Mary and even for Mary herself.

For the purposes of this essay, I am going to look at the broadsides, ballads, and pamphlets that were produced to celebrate Mary’s accession. These short, often single-sheet, texts were meant for a broad audience and essentially served to spread the news of Mary’s accession, as well as give a brief account of what had happened since the death of Edward. Often, they stressed the treasonous activities of Northumberland, almost never mentioning Jane at all, and they attempted to assuage concerns over possible changes in religious policy. Many were printed in the immediate aftermath of Mary’s proclamation as Queen, and give insight into the most pressing concerns for both Queen and country at that moment. Overwhelmingly, these popular texts concluded that Mary’s hereditary right was of the utmost importance, never questioning that right on the basis of her gender.

These ballads, broadsides, and pamphlets were what spread the news of Mary’s accession and both reinforced and guided the popular reaction to it. I will pull out the themes and commonalities of these popular sources, which are predominantly accepting of Mary as Queen. I suggest that popular sources produced at Mary’s accession were all generally positive about and accepting of Mary as Queen, based on dynastic tradition and her lineage. Any anti-government tracts produced at Mary’s accession were not against Mary’s accession per se, but were often Protestant works that tended to be anti-Catholic and not Mary-centric.

For further information including abstracts, see our seminars page.  To join the WSG, see our membership page.

Reminder: WSG seminar 21 November 2020

The second seminar of the year takes place on Saturday, 1pm (GMT), 21 November 2020.

This meeting will be delivered on Zoom. All meetings will start promptly at 1pm GMT (with arrivals from 12.30 onward to allow for necessary preparations and administration). We aim to finish by 3.30pm. If you would like to attend, please make sure your membership is up-to-date to receive the Zoom link.

November 21, 2020

Rocio Martinez: To defend a princess’s rights to her father’s throne: Maria Theresia of Austria and the protestations against her renunciation of the inheritance of the Spanish Monarchy.

When infanta Maria Theresia of Austria was married by proxy to her cousin, king Louis XIV of France, in 1659, she was forced by her father to sign a renunciation to all her rights to the Spanish Throne for herself and her descendants. The Spanish Monarchy’s succession law established that women could inherit the throne if they didn’t have any surviving brothers or if they died without any descendants, so Maria Theresia, as the eldest daughter of king Philip IV of Spain, was the first woman called to her father’s succession if he was to die without any surviving sons. Philip IV only had, at the time of Maria Theresa’s marriage, one son that could separate the soon-to-be queen of France from the Spanish Throne, so this renunciation was designed to avoid the possibility that Louis XIV and the recently wed infanta could become one day the legal heirs of the Spanish Monarchy. Despite the fact that the document itself tried to protect Maria Theresia’s rights, saying that, if she became a widow without having any children and came back to Spain, her rights as the eldest daughter of the monarch would be totally restored, the point of it was to prevent the union of France and the Spanish Monarchy under one crown if the scarce male descendants of king Philip IV of Spain were to die without any legitimate descendants. This renunciation was negotiated with the French court, was included in the famous Treaty of the Pyrenees, was considered as a law and treated as such by the Spanish government, and Louis XIV promised his uncle that he would ratify it after the marriage was finished, although he didn’t honour this last promise. In fact, Louis XIV began to protest against the renunciation as soon as the marriage was finished and the new queen was in France. There were numerous legal treaties, diplomatic dispatches and formal documents where the king argued that his wife and, later, his son and grandson, were the rightful heirs to the Spanish Monarchy and that her renunciation was totally invalid from a legal, diplomatic and dynastic point of view. But in this proposal, I want to present a document in which the French king presented more that seventy five reasons why the rights of his wife couldn’t be erased and she was the rightful heiress of the Spanish Monarchy, with the intention of going beyond this specific case and analyse how the royal women’s rights of succession were defended, protected and, ultimately, viewed in the complex scenario of the Early Modern Europe.

Avleen Grewal: Vathek: Gaze, Disorientations and Policing Identity.

This paper examines the brief interactions between Vathek, the protagonist of William Beckford’s Vathek, and the Giaour, a racialized other who travels to Vathek’s kingdom of Samarah. Vathek is depicted as a monstrous masculine figure with a humongous appetite and an ‘evil eye’ that can shock people into a state of unconsciousness. The failure of Vathek’s ‘evil eye’ to police the Giaour’s identity, and orient the Giaour in relation to himself, to make him apprehensible within the particular space of his kingdom, disrupts Vathek’s monstrous power and the disorienting affect of his “terrible,” Medusa-like gaze (Beckford 3)1. This paper juxtaposes Max Fincher’s analysis of Vathek’s fixation on regulation of bodies and his disorienting, and thus queering (Ahmed) gaze with Homi Bhabha’s theorization of the evil eye as it functions to other racial bodies.

Following this, I will then introduce Sara Ahmed’s concept of disorientation and suggest that averting gaze of the subject gives subjective agency to the object and, consequently, disorients the subject. This paper defines the queer under gaze as refusing to be objectified and instead asserting their own subjectivity by rejecting that gaze and its disorienting affects. This paper investigates Vathek’s failure to interpret the Giaour, the Giaour returning Vathek’s gaze by staring back at him, and its relation to Vathek’s inability to translate the inscriptions on the sabres he bought from the Giaour.

This double-failure to translate the sabres puts Vathek in a disoriented state, resulting in his loss of appetite, a metaphoric and literal indicator of his monstrous masculinity. Without translation, there is no degree of intervention by the subject. In that moment of disjointedness, the Giaour’s unreadability threatens the impact of Vathek’s gaze and power. When Vathek stares at the Giaour, and the Giaour gazes back at him, Vathek loses his appetite and fears his wives being seduced by the Giaour’s appetite. Vathek’s identity and orientation become vulnerable to be affected and shifted without his consent.

1 Beckford, William. Vathek, edited by Thomas Keymer. Oxford University Press, 2013.

Eva Lippold: Marriage and Magic Swords: Mariana Starke’s Factual Fairytale.

Mariana Starke’s The Sword of Peace (1788) is a play which unites two very different worlds. It is a romantic comedy full of fairytale elements, set in exotic India. At the same time, it deals extensively with facts of eighteenth-century life, even those which reflect an uncompromising and often brutal reality – including the marriage market and the slave trade. The play often shifts rapidly between two different tones: the light, entertaining witticisms of eighteenth-century comedy, and incisive political commentary reminiscent of Mary Wollstonecraft’s works.

In this paper, I will show how Starke strikes a delicate balance between romance and reality, using the popular conventions of the London stage to comment on life in the British colonies. The outwardly fictional nature of stage comedy enabled Starke and other playwrights to use it as a vehicle for serious discussions about the real world. The Sword of Peace shows particularly clearly that although entertainment and politics were supposedly two separate spheres, eighteenth-century playwrights and theatre audiences were happy to combine both.

By demonstrating the play’s extensive engagement with contemporary and social issues, I will argue that eighteenth-century female playwrights were especially interested in putting politics on the stage – even though contemporary gender roles and theatre regulations officially prevented this.

For further information including abstracts, see our seminars page.  To join the WSG, see our membership page.

Reminder: WSG seminar November 2020

The second seminar of the year takes place on Saturday, 1pm (GMT), 21 November 2020.

This meeting will be delivered on Zoom. All meetings will start promptly at 1pm GMT (with arrivals from 12.30 onward to allow for necessary preparations and administration). We aim to finish by 3.30pm. If you would like to attend, please make sure your membership is up-to-date to receive the Zoom link.

November 21, 2020
Rocio Martinez: To defend a princess’s rights to her father’s throne: Maria Theresia of Austria and the protestations against her renunciation of the inheritance of the Spanish Monarchy.

When infanta Maria Theresia of Austria was married by proxy to her cousin, king Louis XIV of France, in 1659, she was forced by her father to sign a renunciation to all her rights to the Spanish Throne for herself and her descendants. The Spanish Monarchy’s succession law established that women could inherit the throne if they didn’t have any surviving brothers or if they died without any descendants, so Maria Theresia, as the eldest daughter of king Philip IV of Spain, was the first woman called to her father’s succession if he was to die without any surviving sons. Philip IV only had, at the time of Maria Theresa’s marriage, one son that could separate the soon-to-be queen of France from the Spanish Throne, so this renunciation was designed to avoid the possibility that Louis XIV and the recently wed infanta could become one day the legal heirs of the Spanish Monarchy. Despite the fact that the document itself tried to protect Maria Theresia’s rights, saying that, if she became a widow without having any children and came back to Spain, her rights as the eldest daughter of the monarch would be totally restored, the point of it was to prevent the union of France and the Spanish Monarchy under one crown if the scarce male descendants of king Philip IV of Spain were to die without any legitimate descendants. This renunciation was negotiated with the French court, was included in the famous Treaty of the Pyrenees, was considered as a law and treated as such by the Spanish government, and Louis XIV promised his uncle that he would ratify it after the marriage was finished, although he didn’t honour this last promise. In fact, Louis XIV began to protest against the renunciation as soon as the marriage was finished and the new queen was in France. There were numerous legal treaties, diplomatic dispatches and formal documents where the king argued that his wife and, later, his son and grandson, were the rightful heirs to the Spanish Monarchy and that her renunciation was totally invalid from a legal, diplomatic and dynastic point of view. But in this proposal, I want to present a document in which the French king presented more that seventy five reasons why the rights of his wife couldn’t be erased and she was the rightful heiress of the Spanish Monarchy, with the intention of going beyond this specific case and analyse how the royal women’s rights of succession were defended, protected and, ultimately, viewed in the complex scenario of the Early Modern Europe.

Avleen Grewal: Vathek: Gaze, Disorientations and Policing Identity.

This paper examines the brief interactions between Vathek, the protagonist of William Beckford’s Vathek, and the Giaour, a racialized other who travels to Vathek’s kingdom of Samarah. Vathek is depicted as a monstrous masculine figure with a humongous appetite and an ‘evil eye’ that can shock people into a state of unconsciousness. The failure of Vathek’s ‘evil eye’ to police the Giaour’s identity, and orient the Giaour in relation to himself, to make him apprehensible within the particular space of his kingdom, disrupts Vathek’s monstrous power and the disorienting affect of his “terrible,” Medusa-like gaze (Beckford 3)1. This paper juxtaposes Max Fincher’s analysis of Vathek’s fixation on regulation of bodies and his disorienting, and thus queering (Ahmed) gaze with Homi Bhabha’s theorization of the evil eye as it functions to other racial bodies.

Following this, I will then introduce Sara Ahmed’s concept of disorientation and suggest that averting gaze of the subject gives subjective agency to the object and, consequently, disorients the subject. This paper defines the queer under gaze as refusing to be objectified and instead asserting their own subjectivity by rejecting that gaze and its disorienting affects. This paper investigates Vathek’s failure to interpret the Giaour, the Giaour returning Vathek’s gaze by staring back at him, and its relation to Vathek’s inability to translate the inscriptions on the sabres he bought from the Giaour.

This double-failure to translate the sabres puts Vathek in a disoriented state, resulting in his loss of appetite, a metaphoric and literal indicator of his monstrous masculinity. Without translation, there is no degree of intervention by the subject. In that moment of disjointedness, the Giaour’s unreadability threatens the impact of Vathek’s gaze and power. When Vathek stares at the Giaour, and the Giaour gazes back at him, Vathek loses his appetite and fears his wives being seduced by the Giaour’s appetite. Vathek’s identity and orientation become vulnerable to be affected and shifted without his consent.

1 Beckford, William. Vathek, edited by Thomas Keymer. Oxford University Press, 2013.

Eva Lippold: Marriage and Magic Swords: Mariana Starke’s Factual Fairytale.

Mariana Starke’s The Sword of Peace (1788) is a play which unites two very different worlds. It is a romantic comedy full of fairytale elements, set in exotic India. At the same time, it deals extensively with facts of eighteenth-century life, even those which reflect an uncompromising and often brutal reality – including the marriage market and the slave trade. The play often shifts rapidly between two different tones: the light, entertaining witticisms of eighteenth-century comedy, and incisive political commentary reminiscent of Mary Wollstonecraft’s works.

In this paper, I will show how Starke strikes a delicate balance between romance and reality, using the popular conventions of the London stage to comment on life in the British colonies. The outwardly fictional nature of stage comedy enabled Starke and other playwrights to use it as a vehicle for serious discussions about the real world. The Sword of Peace shows particularly clearly that although entertainment and politics were supposedly two separate spheres, eighteenth-century playwrights and theatre audiences were happy to combine both.

By demonstrating the play’s extensive engagement with contemporary and social issues, I will argue that eighteenth-century female playwrights were especially interested in putting politics on the stage – even though contemporary gender roles and theatre regulations officially prevented this.

For further information including abstracts, see our seminars page.  To join the WSG, see our membership page.

Reminder: WSG seminar 19 September 2020

The first seminar of the year takes place on Saturday, 1pm (BST), 19 September 2020.

This meeting will be delivered on Zoom. All meetings will start promptly at 1pm BST/GMT* (with arrivals from 12.30 onward to allow for necessary preparations and administration). We aim to finish by 3.30pm. If you would like to attend, please make sure your membership is up-to-date to receive the Zoom link.

September 19, 2020
Stephen Spiess: Reading Strumpets: Thomas Heywood, Sexual Epistemology, and the Making of English Whoredom

In a decidedly offhand tone, as if sharing an insight so obvious as to barely merit acknowledgement, Thomas Heywood asserts in Gynaikeion (1624), his encyclopaedic catalogue of women historical and mythological, that “almost every boy of fifteen or sixteen years old knows what a strumpet is, better by his own practice than I can illustrate to him by all my reading.” How, we might ask, can he be so sure? Upon what terms, standards, and practices does such sexual knowledge depend? In this paper, I leverage Heywood’s provocation as an invitation to think early modern “whoredom” not simply as an historical practice or literary trope, but a knowledge-relation whose contours and problematics open onto broader questions of sexual epistemology, both in the early modern period and our own. My reading thus unfolds on two levels. First, I situate Heywood’s claim in relation to the broader project in which it appears: a 466-page treatise which aims to distinguish between chaste and illicit women, and whose manifold anecdotes and exempla consistently unsettle the sexual knowability it promises to secure. In this, Gynaikeion exemplifies in strong form what I call the “making of English whoredom”—that is, the immense social, textual, and discursive labor necessary to produce and sustain the fiction of the early modern “whore” as a fixed, transparent object of knowledge. Second, and by detailing this claim, I discuss how my epistemological approach fits within the broader scholarship of early modern sex, as well as how it offers new traction on old problems (archival, hermeneutic, historiographic, etc.) faced by historians and literary critics interested in the structures and meanings of English whoredom.

Sonia Villegas Lopez: Female Libertinism in Gabriel de Brémond’s Transnational Oriental Fictions.

French oriental narratives were both translated and published profusely in England in the 1670s and 1680s. The action of many of these novellas was situated in the exotic territories of Morocco and the Ottoman Empire, though often telling stories about the French and the English nobility under cover. They illustrated sexual scandals, in which women, though primarily the objects of love and gallantry, were also prone to give free rein to their desires. Gabriel de Brémond’s Hattige, or the Amours of the King of Tamaran (1680) and Homais, Queen of Tunis (1681), reproduce Charles II’s sexual affairs, and construe both Hattige, the king of Tamaran’s favourite, and Homais, wife of the King of Tunis, as emblems of female libertinism within the safe boundaries of the seraglio. Tamaran (or England) and Tunis were described as places of gallantry, the perfect environment for stories of intrigue, love and passion. These female rakes followed their ambition and used their sexual authority over kings and nobles, making fools of them to earn political power in return. They behaved as apt manipulators but their downfall was precipitated by their own romantic weaknesses for other men whom they loved, in spite of not being rich or powerful. I argue that, far from being read as models of female exoticism and otherness, as in later Enlightenment oriental novels, these strong women and the love intrigues they spin could be interpreted as examples of what Srinivas Aravamudan has fitly called “transcultural allegories” (2012: 202). I subscribe to Aravamudan’s interpretation of the late seventeenth-century oriental novel as the vehicle to introduce the culturally foreign, which displaces the local and the national in favour of transculturalism. The selected novels suggest a transnational vision of the orient not in either/or exclusive categories, but in inclusive terms, according to which the east is feminised and associated to a glorious and hedonistic past.

Anthony Walker-Cook: Descending into the Underworld with Mary Leapor and Sarah Fielding.

Of women and epic poetry, this paper will explore. Following Alexander Pope’s translations of the Iliad (1715-20) and the Odyssey (1725-26), it was considered by many that Homer had been rendered into English in an edition perfect for women to use. This, alongside Dryden’s 1697 Virgil, meant the essential texts of the epic genre were now available for women to read in acceptable English translations. In the few accounts of the history of the epic genre that consider the presence of women writers of the mode, the eighteenth century is often missed. In 1716, Richard Blackmore thought that epic need not be ‘restrain’d to a Hero; since no Reason […] can be assign’d, why a Heroine may not be the principal person of an Epick.’ To go further, why might a woman not be the writer of an epic poem? This paper suggests that the works of Mary Leapor and Sarah Fielding represents the best claim for women’s work of the period to be classified within the epic genre. Both Leapor and Fielding use the underworld, the classical space par excellence, to explore the status of women in the eighteenth century, but both also register the influence of the mock-heroic, a mode popular throughout the period. Exploring Leapor’s poetry and Sarah Fielding’s The History of the Countess of Dellwyn (1759), it shall be shown how each writer uses the underworld to depict the lives of the serving class and of a woman marked by divorce respectively. This paper will thus overall suggest that the traces of the epic genre that can be detected throughout work of Leapor and Fielding warrant examination as an important part of the broadly-unwritten history that details how women writers engaged with the mode.

For further information including abstracts, see our seminars page.  To join the WSG, see our membership page.

Reminder: WSG seminar September 2020

The first seminar of the year takes place on Saturday, 1pm (BST), 19 September 2020.

This meeting will be delivered on Zoom. All meetings will start promptly at 1pm BST/GMT* (with arrivals from 12.30 onward to allow for necessary preparations and administration). We aim to finish by 3.30pm. If you would like to attend, please make sure your membership is up-to-date to receive the Zoom link.

September 19, 2020
Stephen Spiess: Reading Strumpets: Thomas Heywood, Sexual Epistemology, and the Making of English Whoredom

In a decidedly offhand tone, as if sharing an insight so obvious as to barely merit acknowledgement, Thomas Heywood asserts in Gynaikeion (1624), his encyclopaedic catalogue of women historical and mythological, that “almost every boy of fifteen or sixteen years old knows what a strumpet is, better by his own practice than I can illustrate to him by all my reading.” How, we might ask, can he be so sure? Upon what terms, standards, and practices does such sexual knowledge depend? In this paper, I leverage Heywood’s provocation as an invitation to think early modern “whoredom” not simply as an historical practice or literary trope, but a knowledge-relation whose contours and problematics open onto broader questions of sexual epistemology, both in the early modern period and our own. My reading thus unfolds on two levels. First, I situate Heywood’s claim in relation to the broader project in which it appears: a 466-page treatise which aims to distinguish between chaste and illicit women, and whose manifold anecdotes and exempla consistently unsettle the sexual knowability it promises to secure. In this, Gynaikeion exemplifies in strong form what I call the “making of English whoredom”—that is, the immense social, textual, and discursive labor necessary to produce and sustain the fiction of the early modern “whore” as a fixed, transparent object of knowledge. Second, and by detailing this claim, I discuss how my epistemological approach fits within the broader scholarship of early modern sex, as well as how it offers new traction on old problems (archival, hermeneutic, historiographic, etc.) faced by historians and literary critics interested in the structures and meanings of English whoredom.

Sonia Villegas Lopez: Female Libertinism in Gabriel de Brémond’s Transnational Oriental Fictions.

French oriental narratives were both translated and published profusely in England in the 1670s and 1680s. The action of many of these novellas was situated in the exotic territories of Morocco and the Ottoman Empire, though often telling stories about the French and the English nobility under cover. They illustrated sexual scandals, in which women, though primarily the objects of love and gallantry, were also prone to give free rein to their desires. Gabriel de Brémond’s Hattige, or the Amours of the King of Tamaran (1680) and Homais, Queen of Tunis (1681), reproduce Charles II’s sexual affairs, and construe both Hattige, the king of Tamaran’s favourite, and Homais, wife of the King of Tunis, as emblems of female libertinism within the safe boundaries of the seraglio. Tamaran (or England) and Tunis were described as places of gallantry, the perfect environment for stories of intrigue, love and passion. These female rakes followed their ambition and used their sexual authority over kings and nobles, making fools of them to earn political power in return. They behaved as apt manipulators but their downfall was precipitated by their own romantic weaknesses for other men whom they loved, in spite of not being rich or powerful. I argue that, far from being read as models of female exoticism and otherness, as in later Enlightenment oriental novels, these strong women and the love intrigues they spin could be interpreted as examples of what Srinivas Aravamudan has fitly called “transcultural allegories” (2012: 202). I subscribe to Aravamudan’s interpretation of the late seventeenth-century oriental novel as the vehicle to introduce the culturally foreign, which displaces the local and the national in favour of transculturalism. The selected novels suggest a transnational vision of the orient not in either/or exclusive categories, but in inclusive terms, according to which the east is feminised and associated to a glorious and hedonistic past.

Anthony Walker-Cook: Descending into the Underworld with Mary Leapor and Sarah Fielding.

Of women and epic poetry, this paper will explore. Following Alexander Pope’s translations of the Iliad (1715-20) and the Odyssey (1725-26), it was considered by many that Homer had been rendered into English in an edition perfect for women to use. This, alongside Dryden’s 1697 Virgil, meant the essential texts of the epic genre were now available for women to read in acceptable English translations. In the few accounts of the history of the epic genre that consider the presence of women writers of the mode, the eighteenth century is often missed. In 1716, Richard Blackmore thought that epic need not be ‘restrain’d to a Hero; since no Reason […] can be assign’d, why a Heroine may not be the principal person of an Epick.’ To go further, why might a woman not be the writer of an epic poem? This paper suggests that the works of Mary Leapor and Sarah Fielding represents the best claim for women’s work of the period to be classified within the epic genre. Both Leapor and Fielding use the underworld, the classical space par excellence, to explore the status of women in the eighteenth century, but both also register the influence of the mock-heroic, a mode popular throughout the period. Exploring Leapor’s poetry and Sarah Fielding’s The History of the Countess of Dellwyn (1759), it shall be shown how each writer uses the underworld to depict the lives of the serving class and of a woman marked by divorce respectively. This paper will thus overall suggest that the traces of the epic genre that can be detected throughout work of Leapor and Fielding warrant examination as an important part of the broadly-unwritten history that details how women writers engaged with the mode.

For further information including abstracts, see our seminars page.  To join the WSG, see our membership page.