Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 5 x 2 hours


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 1 X 5000 WORD ESSAY  100%
Supplementary Assessment RESUBMIT THE FAILED ELEMENT  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

articulate their knowledge of complex philosophical and populist debates relating to women's place and role in society during the period

demonstrate an alertness to the limitations of normative/conventional constructions of women's social role in terms of domesticity and engage with philosphical debates concerning issues of community and collectivity

formulate their own responses to a range of complex literary texts which engage with issues of female community in diverse ways an didentify and analyse connections between these disparate texts

construct nuanced arguments informed by an understanding of contemporary responses to women's collectives, particularly in relation to issues of, authorship, religion, fantasy, sexuality and radicalism


This is a new option developed to fill a gap in the portfolio of modules currently available for the literary studies MA. Focusing on the period 1683-1796 the module will explore a range of texts which represent groups or communities of women. Students will be asked to consider women as the writers, readers and subjects of drama, poetry and prose fiction and the extent to which female communities are celebrated and/or vilified in these texts. During the course of the module students will engage with recent scholarship and theoretical debate regarding communitarianism and the literary representation of community during the period.

Brief description

Literary scholars and historians have defined women's normative roles during the Restoration and Eighteenth Century in terms of their relationships with men. However, a survey of texts from this period suggests a fascination with groups or categories of women who are devolved of direct patriarchal control. This module will consider a selection of texts written by both men and women that represent a range of female communities; nuns, prostitutes, coquettes, readers and writers. Such communities were open to a dualistic interpretation as simultaneously threatening to social stability and a staple of erotic fantasy. Both of these interpretations are driven by ides of otherness, images of unnaturalness and perceived transgressions of moral, social and religious codes of conduct. These women's communities stood not only in opposition to women's accepted domestic roles but were also directly opposed to parallel masculine institutions such as parliament and the Royal Society and students will be encouraged to consider the vilification of women's collectives alongside these authorised men's cabals. The image of the female community has been utilised as powerful rhetoric by feminist critics who have struggled to ascribe to these communities a progressive radical agenda. Women's writing in particular has been a focus for scholars who have identified in poetry, drama and prose fiction of the period recurrent images of collective support between women writers and by extension the women readers of such texts. Although this notion is compelling the module will questions such interpretations by requiring student to engage with a range of texts which complicate this overly simplified model. Has the search for historical echoes of modern feminist ideology in early modern women's writing inadvertently re-inscribed women's texts in a domestic and feminised sphere? Are texts from this period as much about women's disconnection as they are about women's friendship and unity? Further to such questioning of this feminist agenda the module will examine the literary representation of female communities in the light of current theories of communitarianism and recent scholarly work on nationalism and identity during the period. Many of the texts considered create in microcosm an image of national unity which scholars have identified as central to the rhetoric of post-1707 politics. Is the political fantasy of a unified national identity evident in these female communities or do these texts pose a challenge to notions of national harmony?



Mary Astell, "A Serious Proposal to the Ladies" (1694)
Extracts from; Eliza Haywood, "The Female Spectator" (1709-1710)
Selections from; Roger Lonsdale (ed), "Eighteenth Century Women Poets"
Extracts from; Mary Wollstonecraft, "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" (1792)

Jane Collier, "An Essay on the Art of Ingeniously Tormenting" (1753)
Extracts from; Thompson & Roberts (eds), "Women reading Shakespeare, 1600-1900: An Anthology"


John Cleland, "Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure" (1749)

Aphra Behn, "The Fair Jilt" (1688) "The History of the Nun" (1689)
Denis Diderot, "The Nun" (1760)

Susanna Centlivre, "The Wonder: A Woman Keeps a Secret" (1714)
Mary Hays, "Memoirs of Emma Courtney" (1796)

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Communication Written communication in an academic context. Oral communication skills in formal presentations and group work in seminars.
Improving own Learning and Performance Independent reading and research skills. Time management and organisational skills.
Information Technology Use of electronic resources. Use of e-learning technologies. Production of written work.
Personal Development and Career planning Critical self-reflection and the development of transferable communicationa nd research skills.
Problem solving Identifying problems and suggesting reasoned solutions in seminars. Formulating and developing an exteneded argument in the assessment task.
Research skills Independent and directed research conducted as part of seminar preparation. Independent research to complete the summative assessment task. Relating literary texts to historical and interpretive contexts.
Subject Specific Skills Advanced research skills in a specific area of specialist literary study. Detailed critical/theoretical analysis of literary texts and evaluation of broad theoretical concepts.
Team work Group work in seminars. Preparing and presenting group presentations.

Reading List

Should Be Purchased
Behn, Aphra (1994.) Oroonoko and other writings /Aphra Behn ; edited with an introduction by Paul Salzman. Oxford University Press Primo search Centlivre, Susanna (March 2004) The Wonder:A Woman Keeps a Secret Broadview Press Primo search Cleland, John (Jan. 1999) Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure Oxford University Press Primo search Collier, Jane (Aug. 2003) An Essay on the Art of Ingeniously Tormenting:With Proper Rules for the Exercise of That Pleasant Art Broadview Press Primo search Diderot, Denis (July 2005) The Nun Oxford University Press, Incorporated Primo search Hays, Mary (Feb. 1996) Memoirs of Emma Courtney Oxford University Press Primo search
Supplementary Text
Defoe, Daniel (1996.) Roxana, the fortunate mistress, or, A history of the life and vast variety of fortunes of Mademoiselle de Beleau : afterwards called the Countess de Wintselsheim in Germany : being the person known by the name of the Lady Roxana in the time of Charles II /Daniel Defoe ; edited with an introduction a Oxford University Press Primo search Fenwick, Eliza (1998) Secresy, or, The ruin on the rock /Eliza Fenwick ; introduced by Janet Todd. Broadview Primo search Fielding, Sarah (2005) The Governess or the Little Female Academy Broadview Primo search Haywood, Eliza (April 2004) Anti-Pamela and Shamela Broadview Press Primo search Mudge, Bradford K. (April 2004) When Flesh Becomes Word:An Anthology of Early Eighteenth-Century Libertine Literature Oxford University Press, Incorporated Primo search
Recommended Consultation
(1994.) Political gender :texts and contexts /edited by Sally Ledger, Josephine McDonagh and Jane Spencer; preface by Maud Ellmann. Harvester Wheatsheaf Primo search (1990 (various p) Women in the eighteenth century :constructions of femininity /edited by Vivien Jones. Routledge Primo search Ballaster, Ros (1991) Women's Worlds:Ideology, Femininity, and the Woman's Magazine Macmillan Publishers Limited Primo search Clery, E. J. (2004.) The feminization debate in eighteenth-century England :literature, commerce and luxury /by E.J. Clery. Palgrave Macmillan Primo search Colley, Linda (1992 (1994 prin) Britons :forging the nation, 1707-1837 /Linda Colley. Pimlico Primo search Etizioni, Amitai (2004) The Common Good Polity Primo search Honohan, Iseult (Oct. 2002) Civic Republicanism Routledge Primo search Morris, Brian (Dec. 2003) Kropotkin:The Politics of Community Prometheus Books, Publishers Primo search Mudge, Bradford K. (July 2000) The Whore's Story:Women, Pornography, and the British Novel, 1684-1830 Oxford University Press, Incorporated Primo search Rees, Christine. (1996.) Utopian imagination and eighteenth-century fiction /Christine Rees. Longman Primo search Shevelow, Kathryn (1989.) Women and print culture :the construction of femininity in the early periodical /Kathryn Shevelow. Routledge Primo search Todd, Janet M. (1980.) Women's friendship in literature /[by] Janet Todd. Columbia University Press Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 7