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Unit information: Eighteenth-Century Women's Writing in 2020/21

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Unit name Eighteenth-Century Women's Writing
Unit code ENGL20031
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Batt
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


On this unit we will explore writing by women in the long eighteenth century (c. 1680-1800). Considering the poetry, drama, and prose of writers such as Aphra Behn, Eliza Haywood, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and Mary Wollstonecraft, we will examine women's literary responses to a range of pressing public and personal subjects, including friendship; love, sex and marriage; the female body; education; politics; class; and slavery. We will be concerned with exploring the place of women writers in literary history: what did female authors write about, and who were they writing for? Is there such a thing as 'women's writing'? In what ways did women writers contribute to the rise of the novel, how successful were they in writing for the stage, how influential was their verse, and what impact did their writing have on political debates? And finally, how have critics from Virginia Woolf onwards understood eighteenth-century women's writing?

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have

(1) developed a detailed knowledge and critical understanding of eighteenth-century women’s writing;

(2) in-depth knowledge of some of the critical approaches that have been taken to women’s writing in this period;

(3) demonstrated the ability to analyse and evaluate differing critical accounts of the primary literature;

(4) demonstrated the ability to identify and evaluate pertinent evidence in order to illustrate/demonstrate a cogent argument;

(5) strengthened their skills in argumentation and academic writing.

Teaching details

Teaching will involve asynchronous and synchronous elements, including group discussion, research and writing activities, and peer dialogue. Students are expected to engage with the reading and participate fully with the weekly tasks and topics. Learning will be further supported through the opportunity for individual consultation.

Assessment Details

  • 1 x 3000 word essay (100%) [ILOs 1-5]

Reading and References

Montagu, Mary Wortley, The Turkish Embassy Letters, ed. by Malcolm Jack, introd. by Anita Desai (London: Virago Press, 1994)

Clarke, Norma, The Rise and Fall of the Woman of Letters (London: Pimlico, 2004)

Austen, Jane, Pride and Prejudice ed. James Kinsley, introd. Fiona Stafford (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Burney, Frances, Evelina ed. Edward A. Bloom (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)

Cowley, Hannah, ‘The Belle’s Stratagem’ in Melinda Finberg, ed., Eighteenth-Century Women Dramatists (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).

Wollstonecraft, Mary, ‘Mary’ in Mary and The Wrongs of Women ed. by Gary Kelly (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)