EN340B: Major Women Writers

Aphra Behn to Jane Austen

EN340B: Major Women Writers

Final Web Projects

May 8th, 2014 · Comments Off on Final Web Projects · Uncategorized

The Amorous Pen, by Rachel

The Downfall of Inheritance, by Diamond

The Paradoxical Representation of Slavery in Oroonoko, by Erica

Women Writers of the Eighteenth Century, by Oluwatosin

The Queens of Amatory Fiction, by Susan



Final project presentation

May 6th, 2014 · Comments Off on Final project presentation · Assignments

Presentations are tomorrow evening–get ready to cheer on your peers! Remember to bring something to share with the class, and be sure to take a look at the final project checklist and presentation guidelines, here. I gave these out last class period, but it occurs to me that so many were absent you may not have received it from a friend. Can’t wait to see your projects tomorrow!


Final Project

January 7th, 2014 · No Comments · Assignments

You have two options for your final project (yaay!):

You can choose to write for the web and construct a revised, publicly-available research website on a novel we have read or on a related (and approved!) topic of your choice–a subject, a theme, a genre, and so on. You will be responsible for educating a third-year university-student audience about your topic, the scholarly research surrounding it, and its significance. A web project should have an introductory page; at least 3 subpages; at least 3 additional, deeper subpages; and a bibliography page. The structure of your website should be well-thought out, and each page should include multiple links to other relevant pages internal to your site, to the bibliography page, and to web-accessible sources. All images or other media should also be fully documented and legally used. You can use Google Sites or MUcommons to prepare your site, and it should be turned in to me both as a link to the live, working site and as a site download that contains all images, pages, and other resources in the live site. You must use at least 6 academic sources and at least 5 links to well done, purposeful, and informative popular websites.

Or, you can choose to write a revised, academic argumentative essay on an independently-developed topic (approved by me!), based in close reading of specific passages from our texts. Your argumentative essay will be 8-10 pages in length and it should draw thoroughly on at least 5 academic sources. Your essay should have a focused, nuanced, significant thesis that remains stable throughout; clear transitions that develop your argumentative structure in a logical way; a clear and interesting introduction and conclusion, each of which draw attention to the significance of your argument; and evidence based in close reading and analysis.

In each case, I will also be considering your revision efforts. Your projects will be finally due at the beginning of our scheduled exam period, when you will also be presenting on your research in student panels that I arrange.

Sample Site Structure:

Here is a basic website structure for your project. Note that this should resemble, in many ways, an essay! The arrows indicate web links between and among the pages.

Here is a basic website structure for your project. Note that this should resemble, in many ways, an essay! The arrows indicate web links between and among the pages.

Want to do a video? Something else? Pitch it to me! Here’s a sample student project done for a literature course on Restoration and eighteenth-century English theater as an example of the kind of thing you can do: Masking in Eighteenth-Century Theater (opens in YouTube).



Visualizing EVELINA

April 1st, 2014 · Comments Off on Visualizing EVELINA · Uncategorized

Charting happiness in EVELINA

Charting happiness in EVELINA

Charting confusion and distress in EVELINA

Charting confusion and distress in EVELINA


Over Spring Break…

March 5th, 2014 · Comments Off on Over Spring Break… · Assignments

Have a restful spring break, but don’t forget to continue your coursework! For Wednesday, March 19, please:

  • Read a substantial portion (at least 1/3-1/2) of Frances Burney, Evelina; or, the History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World. Also have read the study guide and this brief biography of Burney.
  • Write a formal response to one of the questions in the study guide (2 pages), due today. Be succinct; vary your sentence style; look closely at your work for grammar, syntax, and punctuation inelegancies; and incorporate close reading in your argumentation.  Your response should have a central point/thesis and a works cited page.
  • Browse the MLA International Bibliography for materials related to Burney’s Evelina, and bring in a bibliography (MLA formatted) of 5 sources that interest you. You are not reading these sources–unless you want to, of course!
  • As I mentioned in class, you can turn in/revise your punctuation exercise today–you have extra time. If you want to work with a peer on it, please turn in one document with both your names.
  • Finally, please bring in and be prepared to share one passage from Evelina that you think is important or interesting.

Note that Friday, March 21 is the last day to withdraw from a class with a grade of W.


Reminder for next class!

February 12th, 2014 · Comments Off on Reminder for next class! · Assignments

I now have your topics, and I will give electronic feedback as soon as possible so you can get started on your draft! For this next week, please remember:

Meet with me to discuss your draft on/before the 18th–bring your 5-page draft and your 10 quotations. This is a part of your grade! If you cannot meet with me in person, we can do phone conferences; sign up via Starfish as normal, and indicate if you need to call me instead. If these times don’t work, we can also do a telephone conversation over the weekend–again, email me, and I’ll give you my cell number.

Wednesday, February 19: (revised after my feedback) bring 2 hard copies of the draft of 5-page essay that’s due. Bring your 10 relevant quotations for your topic! Also, bring your laptop with an electronic version of your essay, and your questions about Microsoft Word. In class: workshopping for idea and structure.  Read first third of Charlotte Lennox, The Female Quixote; or, the Adventures of Arabella. Also have read this brief biography of Lennox as well as Chapter 2, “Faulty Connections,” in Line by Line.  Reading journal entry 6.


Homework Update for February 12–note the new addition!

February 5th, 2014 · Comments Off on Homework Update for February 12–note the new addition! · Assignments

At the end of class, I asked you to:

  • finish the revision handout,
  • review the amatory fiction overview,
  • read all of Love in Excess (if possible!), and
  • come up with a topic for your paper–I’ll collect it.
    • On this sheet with your topic, ALSO: identify/transcribe at least one good quotation relevant for your topic, and do a brief close reading of it. What’s happening in general? What in particular? What observations and inferences can you make from the quotation? Draw attention to specific elements in the quotation in your close reading.
  • As usual, continue your journal!


Reading Guide: The History of the Nun

January 10th, 2014 · Comments Off on Reading Guide: The History of the Nun · Study Guides

Aphra Behn, “The History of the Nun” (1698)

Figure 3 - Engraving, La Veüe, Robert Bonnart, Paris, late 17th century. Museum no. E.21383-1957

La Veuve/The Widow (Bonnart fashion plate, 17th century)

Title page, first edition

“The Singing Nun” (Film, 1666)

  1. As you read, note the tense shifts from simple past to present–for instance, at the end of page…. When do they occur? What is being described? What is the effect of this shift? (15, 17, 24, 29, 35, 37)
  2. How is passion described? What are its effects, both on the body, the mind? In particular, what conundrums, paradoxes, and other problems does this entangle Isabella in? How does shame function in the narrative? When Henault returns after she married Villenoys, she engages in a particularly confusing debate about how love changes (35). How and why does she kill Henault? What are her worries after the deed? What about Villenoys?
  3. Elsewhere, note how love is described through the conceit of disease, illness, even death and destruction. Is this relevant to what happens later in the plot? How?
  4. What is the effect of love or passion on expression, speech, even thought? Look at some examples where passion is described, which may help you answer this question. Why is this the case–why do you think Behn is describing the relationship between passion and expression in this way? Does Isabella become more, or less, able to express herself as the novella continues? On a related note, consider how the characters are described, physically. Do you note the superlatives Behn uses? How might this particular use of language intersect with the difficulty of expressing passion? What about excessive grief?
  5. Why doesn’t Isabella know what’s happening to her as she grows close to Henault? Why is Katterina in the nunnery? Why is Isabella? Why is Isabella relieved that Henault also loves her? What do you think Behn might be encouraging us to see about ths roles of and expectations for women through this information? On a related note, consider the way shame, dishonor, and “the scorn of the town” (35) shape Isabella’s decisions.
  6. Consider the way Behn describes or characterizes the nunnery as a place and as an institution. What seems good about it? What problems seem to come to light? Why is the narrator careful to point out Isabella’s age and the rhetorical powers of the Abess? How might the institution of the convent–which keeps women like Isabella from understanding or being able to deal ho early with desire–parallel the way modesty and attention to reputation are enjoined of women? Is there any way these institutionalizations of certain gender expectations themselves generate disingenuousness or criminality? Note that Henault’s persistence is also described as a crime (20), and that he seeks to “impos[e] upon [Katteriena] from her own innocence.” (See also 22 [denies woman the privilege of her creation]) What do you think Behn might suggest as an alternative to this state of affairs?
  7. The narrator, early in the novella, notes rather sardonically that “since [she] cannot alter custom, nor shall ever be allowed to make new laws or rectify old ones, [she] must leave the young nuns inclosed to their best endeavors of making a virtue of necessity; and the young wives to make the best of a bad market” (5). What does this suggest about Behn’s larger thematic goals? This novella offers in part a critique of the convent as a religiousand social institution, which explains the first part–but why suddenly turn to “young wives”? What parallel is Behn drawing, and why? Where else does the narrator intrude, and why? (30, 39)
  8. Henault has an internal debate wherein he addresses some of the restrictions on women noted above; he wonders, “though he adored the maid, whether he should not abhor the nun in his embrace” (19). What does he mean? Why do you think Behn might include this moment? Are there similar moments elsewhere in the text? What about when Isabella begins to wonder what Villenoys will think about her, after Henault’s death? Or when the narrator intrudes at Isabella’s decision to kill Villenoys?
  9. Who lies to whom, and why? Be sure you know what the words “dissemble” and “impose upon” mean, too. What crimes are committed, and in what order? Where is the origin of the crimes?
  10. What is the significance of her father’s death (25) for the story?
  11. How big of a decision is it for Isabella to run away with Henault? Consider how she reasons with Henault (25)–how does she define love and it’s relationship to discretion? How is she changing as a character? Consider the story she tells to Villenoys about Henault’s death, and see also the questions above regarding the effect of love on expression; what can we infer from this about her changing character, and about Behn’s larger themes?
  12. Why does Isabella leave the convent if she is so devout? How old is she when she enters and leaves? How do Isabella and Henault fare after they elope? Why? They both seek pardons; what happens? What is the point of including the description of Isabella’s mourning (31)? Under what circumstances does Isabella remarry? Why does she murder Henault? Villenoys? Note the imagery of fate, weaving, and sewing used during the disposal scene–why do you think this imagery is used? Note that one of the things we know about Isabella is her giftedness at “fine work.” Ultimately, how responsible is Isabella for her actions? Where does she become (if she does…) a villain?
  13. What is the role that money and financial comfort play in this work? Think about Isabella’s time in the convent, too!
  14. Consider the last two or three pages. Is it surprising to you that so much happens in this brief space? Why do you think Behn weights her novella in this way? How would the meaning of the text change if the fortuitous arrival of Henault’s army buddy had not happened? How does Isabella die–that is, does she have a what Christians call the “good death,” or is she terrified and resistant? What does the ending suggest to you about Behn’s goals?










Reading Guide: Love in Excess

January 7th, 2014 · No Comments · Study Guides

Eliza Haywood
Love in Excess; or, the Fatal Enquiry (1719)

(Images L to R)

Titlepage and frontispiece from Love in Excess, 4th edition.

Eliza Haywood. George Vertue, 1725. Engraving. Image in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Lady Reading the Letters of Heloise and Abélard. Bernard D’Agesci c.1780 Oil on canvas, 81 x 65 cm Art Institute, Chicago.

**Note that this reading guide has been adapted from other professors’ reading guides, to be cited.

  1. This novel is a “romance”; it is in the tradition of “amatory fiction,” a generic mode characteristic of early writing in England that helped develop what we know today as the novel. Amatory fiction was the most popular genre of fiction during the 17th and early 18th centuries, and it was a great source of financial success for many early professional women writers–Aphra Behn wrote amatory fiction, as did Eliza Haywood. This work, Love in Excess, was–along with Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe–the beststeller of its day. Who do you think read these works of fiction? Why were they so popular?

  2. Since the 1980s, there has been renewed interest in forgotten women’s writing–Eliza Haywood and Aphra Behn were among those “recovered” authors. Yet, during their time, these authors’ works were blockbusters. Why do you think a novel like Love in Excess might have been forgotten?   Amatory fiction creates what we might call a “feminocentric” world; what are the implications of this for its literary history?

  3. Some generic features of amatory fiction include erotic scenes that center on what Ros Ballaster has called “voyeuristic attention to the combined pleasures and ravages of seduction”; they detail, in particular, the nature and the consequences of love as a passion. In the world of amatory fiction, the passion of love is an uncontrollable force, outside of individual will or agency. How does Haywood’s work explore the nature of love? What are the moral consequences of passion for men? For women? What are the responsibilities of those in love? What problems does love pose to human agency?

  4. What different kinds of love are there–and why is it important that the novel explores many different kinds of love?

  5. Love in Excess dramatises the many social taboos against strong, independent, outspoken women with desire. Find some examples of this in the novel; what taboos or restrictions do women live under? Consider what Haywood may be suggesting about outspoken women, or about female desire. How does desire come into conflict with the social restrictions women are subject to? What is the role of reputation for women, for men?

  6. What are the effects of love or passion on writing? On expression? On speaking?

  7. What are the dangers of arranged marriages, given the reality of female desire? What requirements are necessary for a companionate marriage? Consider how courtship is represented in terms of power; how might this pose (or expose) a problem in the social requirement that women marry?

  8. Love in Excess is told in a partially epistolary manner; letters are sent, mis-sent, read, mis-read, and crossed. Track these images in the novel, and consider what the purpose of this fragmented epistolarity might be. You might think particularly about the relationship between writing and desire.

  9. Consider the title. What does it suggest to you? Euripides, in Medea, has a line (variously translated) that resonates–“When love is in excess, it brings a man no honor, nor worthiness.” How might this relate to the novel? If excessive love brings dishonor, what does that suggest about love? What is the subtitle of the novel?

  10. “Curiosity, particular sexual curiosity, is an impulse traditionally attributed to women…. Traditionally, however, it has entailed a complex of impulses–exploration, penetration, investigation, and perception–that aroused hostility as the misuse of the mind and spirit for worldly instead of divine things. In early modern culture, it was depicted as a waste of the wealth and energy that should be spent serving God rather than indulging the selfish appetite for novelty, beauty, material items, and pleasure, all roundly characterized as the ‘lust of the eyes.’ For women, these arguments had particular resonance: defined by their sex, they were adjured not to use their bodies either to excite visual lust or for private recreation in place of the social ends of procreation…. [H]owever, Aphra Behn…and Eliza Haywood find a cultural space for this spying in the novel…[by providing] a feast for the physical senses, and particularly for the eyes” (Benedict 194-5). Explore this quote in relation to Love in Excess.

  11. What are the dangers of curiosity, particularly sexual curiosity, and particularly for women? Track the images of curiosity and exploration throughout the novel, and consider how Haywood responds. How is sexual curiosity both liberating and disastrous?

  12. Below is a relational chart, created by Dr. Morillo (NC State University) for the characters in Love in Excess. What can we learn from this?


Reading Guide, Evelina

January 7th, 2014 · No Comments · Study Guides

Frances Burney

Evelina; or, the History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World (1778)

(Images L-R)

Title page of the 4th edition, Evelina. Vassar College Archives and Special Collections. http://adoptabook.vassar.edu/books.php?fmpid=65

Frances d’Arblay (‘Fanny Burney’), by Edward Francisco Burney. Oil on canvas, c.1784-1785. National Portrait Gallery, UK. http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait.php?search=ap&npgno=2634&eDate=&lDate=

A perspective view of Vauxhall Garden, London. Engraving, c.1750. Bridgeman Art. http://www.bridgemanart.com/en-GB/asset/584499/english-school-18th-century/a-perspective-view-of-vauxhall-garden-london-engraving


  1. Overall question, plot: There are several levels of plot in Evelina: (1) the story of Evelina’s appearance in society, her various adjustments in behavior, manner/etiquette, and attitude, and her status as the object of various suitors; (2) the story of her birth, her mother’s death, her rejection by her father, and her efforts to recover her position as daughter. What is the relationship between these levels of plot? What is the function of the daughter-plot in the novel? Is its inclusion necessary or a flaw? The plot of Evelina is also partly dependent on various misunderstandings and misinformation. Some of these may be innocent, some not. What, exactly, is being misunderstood? How important are such misunderstandings to the meaning of the novel? Are they merely devices of plot?

  2. Women’s roles in the world of Evelina: Consider the novel’s subtitle: When does a young lady enter the world, what world does she enter, and why was she not in that world before? Note that Burney begin this book with a poem addressed to her father. How does the poem’s presence affect your reading of the book? What do you think Burney might be suggesting through Evelina about women’s roles in the world? Explore Evelina’s place, function, position in relation to two common cultural narratives about female life: the importance of youthful, feminine innocence (perhaps in opposition to public life) and the inevitability of marriage as women’s fate. Evelina is particularly vulnerable both because she does not have a legitimate place in the social hierarchy, and because she is inexperienced in social decorum. How independent can Evelina be, and why? What does she have to watch out for, and why?  Mr. Villars writes to Evelina: “Remember, my dear Evelina, nothing is so delicate as the reputation of a woman: it is, at once the most beautiful and most brittle of all human things” (166). He also warns her that she “must learn not only to judge but to act for yourself” (166). How are these two warnings related for a young woman in Evelina’s position? How do they relate to her role as the novel’s heroine?

  3. Youth and age: As a corollary, consider the role of age in the representation of women–both in Evelina and in other novels we’ve read thus far. What age seems most worthy of representation? What do you think about this? What does it tell us about the role of women in the 18th century?

  4. Letters and the act of writing: This is an epistolary novel, a very popular genre in the eighteenth century. Attend to how Evelina uses her letters not simply to communicate to Villars but also to resolve her conflicts and to express/discover what she thinks and feels. Can you offer some examples of this? How does Evelina tend to order her accounts of her experiences? What effect does this have on the reader? What do you think the effect of making this an epistolary novel in particular is? You might consider what letters are, what they’re used for, what they represent; you might also consider the work of writing more broadly. How does the work of writing in this novel differ from that in Aphra Behn? Consider particularly how Burney describes “romance” in the Preface. Note also that she prefaces this with a poem to her father; how does this affect the act of a woman writing a novel?

  5. The urban world: Explore the novel’s representation of an urban world of leisure pursuits and consumer commodities. Is this a world of rational progress and egalitarian possibilities, or one of luxury, self-indulgence, decadence, and the breakdown of more traditional social and moral orders? Keep a list of the places that Evelina visits and the kinds of leisure pursuits she engages with. Which aspects of the urban world does Evelina seem to value, and why? What does Villars think about her experiences? Why are there so many urban places visited in the novel?

  6. Space and place: As a corollary to questions 1 and 5, consider the various houses that Evelina stays under the protection of; how would you evaluate each? She stays with the Mirvans; Madame Duval; Villars; Mrs. Beaumont, the Branghtons; and so on. What is the relationship between successive places in Evelina and its theme or structure? (Howard Grove–London [Mayfair]–Howard Grove–London [Holborn]–Berry Hill–Bristol).

  7. Manners and character: Burney is very adept at observing social cues and character–this is one of the things that makes her an important source of inspiration for Jane Austen’s work. Keep track of the characters we meet, and consider what their functions seem to be in the novel. One way to do this is to note down what they do, how Evelina treats them or describes them, and how (if at all) this might change over the course of the novel. Note especially: Villars, Sir Clement Willoughby, Lord Orville, Madame Duval, Captain Mirvan, Lady Howard, Miss Mirvan, Macartney, the Branghtons, Lovel, Merton, Coverley, and Sir John Belmont.  What values, ideas, and emotions can Burney express through these characters? This is related to the previous question, too! The relationships between Sir Clement Willoughby and Evelina; Macartney and Evelina; and Evelina and Mrs. Selwyn are particularly important, as is the way Burney represents the relationship between Captain Mirvan and Madame Duval.

  8. Class and manners: As a corollary, Evelina provides clear groupings of class: Rural aristocracy, urban aristocracy, urban bourgeoisie. Which characters fit into which classes? Does Burney provide an analysis of these classes? Does the novel seem to represent (or attack) the interests and attitudes of any particular class? What is the relationship of the treatment of class to the treatment of manners?

  9. Violence and threat: Explore episodes and relations of violence/violation–speculate on their relation to society’s expectations and attitudes towards women, especially regarding polite and decorous behavior. In what ways is Evelina vulnerable to violence? In what ways is she threatened? Which other characters are violent, and what do we make of that?

  10. Laughter and silence: Keep track of who laughs in the novel and for what reasons. To what purposes does Burney use laughter? What characters become the butts of jokes? Who participates in joking and why? Think about when Evelina laughs, when others around her laugh, and when we as readers laugh. Similarly, explore relations among silence, communication, rhetoric (and style/tone), particularly when considering Evelina’s position and strategies for persuading, manipulating, and describing (defining) others. What degrees of agency, mobility, and constraint do you find in her character? How does she use silence, speech, writing, laughter?

  11. Some important scenes: Evelina’s first ball (1.11), the carriage ride (2.2), Vauxhall (2.15) and Marybone (2.21), Orville’s letter to Evelina (2.27), the race between the two old women (3.27), the monkey-a-la-mode scene (3.21), and Mrs. Selwyn’s characterization (3.1, 3.3, 3.16).

Study questions adapted in whole and in part by Dr. Howe from Dr. Stephen Flores (University of Idaho), Dr. Katharine Beutner (College of Wooster), Dr. Charles Knight (University of Massachusetts, Boston)