English fiction--18th century--History and criticism, Authorship--Sex differences--History--18th century, Political fiction, English--History and criticism, Psychological fiction, English--History and criticism, English fiction--Women authors--History and criticism, Politics and literature--Great Britain--History--18th century, Women and literature--Great Britain--History--18th century, Sentimentalism in literature, Femininity in literature, and Sex role in literature
In the wake of the French Revolution, Edmund Burke argued that civil order depended upon nurturing the sensibility of men upon the masculine cultivation of traditionally feminine qualities such as sentiment, tenderness, veneration, awe, gratitude, and even prejudice. Writers as diverse as Sterne, Goldsmith, Burke, and Rousseau were politically motivated to represent authority figures as men of feeling, but denied women comparable authority by representing their feelings as inferior, pathological, or criminal. Focusing on Mary Wollstonecraft, Ann Radcliffe, Frances Burney, and Jane Austen, whose popular works culminate and assail this tradition, Claudia L. Johnson examines the legacy male sentimentality left for women of various political persuasions.Demonstrating the interrelationships among politics, gender, and feeling in the fiction of this period, Johnson provides detailed readings of Wollstonecraft, Radcliffe, and Burney, and treats the qualities that were once thought to mar their work grotesqueness, strain, and excess as indices of ideological conflict and as strategies of representation during a period of profound political conflict. She maintains that the reactionary reassertion of male sentimentality as a political duty displaced customary gender roles, rendering women, in Wollstonecraft's words,'equivocal beings.'