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ENGL2011 Women, Writing and Modernity, 1770-1830

Module Overview

The period 1770-1830 was a pivotal time in the history of women’s writing in Britain. Reacting against slavery and responding to the French Revolution, women assumed a prominent role in debates that would shape the modern world, and lead to modern feminism, most famously put forward by Mary Wollstonecraft. Exploring the formal innovations women made in different genres of writing offers a way into the relation between women’s writing and articulations of modernity. Writing by Wollstonecraft, Hannah More, and Jane Austen will introduce you to the different ways women’s writing reshaped definitions of gender, sexuality, social hierarchy and race, marriage, family, and nation.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• To enable you to identify and acquire critical methods and approaches to question of gender and literary genres in this period • To encourage you to think of the content and style of women’s literary production in relation to developing concepts of modernity • To enable you to understand how women’s writing contributed to debate on the nature and direction of modernity

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • analyse a variety of written texts critically and with attention to their historical context
  • compare the development of certain themes from different moments within the historical scope of the course
  • define key terms in the texts and trace their evolution across the period
  • distinguish between different approaches to gender and writing in this period
  • research a problem, focus on its most salient issues, find the most relevant sources and discuss the problem in depth.
  • discuss the issues raised by the course in relation not only to the material specific to it but to the wider cultural issues it raised
  • write with clarity and sensitivity about the historical differences between the period of the course and our own
  • discuss these differences in sophisticated and thoughtful ways with others who may not have studied gendered writing in this early period.


Teaching methods include • lectures • tutor-led seminar discussion Learning activities include • individual and collaborative student seminar presentation • internet, database and library research • email list discussion Innovative or special features of this module • visit to Chawton House Library which will house a unique collection of English women’s writing from this period

Special Features

The module offers a field trip, including a tour of Chawton House Library, an introduction to its important rare books collection of women’s writing, 1660-1830, and a visit to Jane Austen’s House Museum. The visit to Chawton House Library will suggest how specialist libraries in an historical setting—the library is housed in the Manor that belonged to Jane Austen’s brother in the village where she lived and wrote—help us to imagine and explore the material and social circumstances in which women thought and wrote.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures • Seminars • Office hours for individual feedback on essays Learning activities include • Office hours for individual feedback on essays • Introducing a seminar through oral presentations • Small group work focusing on close readings of theoretical material Innovative or special features of this module • Its emphasis on showing students how to apply complex theoretical material to read literary texts

Independent Study114
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Hannah Barker and Elaine Chalus, ed (1997). Gender in Eighteenth-Century England: Roles, Representations, and Responsibilities. 

Marilyn Butler (1975). Jane Austen and the War of Ideas. 

Anna Letitia Barbauld (1792). Epistle to William Wilberforce. 

Anna Letitia Barbauld (1812). Eighteen Hundred and Eleven, A Poem. 

Elizabeth Eger, et al, ed. (2001). Women, Writing and the Public Sphere 1700-1830 (Especially the Introduction and chapters 4, 5, 6, and 10). 

Amanda Vickery (1998). The Gentleman’s Daughter: Women’s Lives in Georgian England. 

Anne K. Mellor (2000). Mothers of the Nation: Women’s Political Writing in England, 1780-1830 (ch. 1). 

Harriet Guest (2000). Small Change: Women, Learning, Patriotism, 1750-1810. 

Charlotte Smith (1807). Beachy Head. 

Charlotte Smith (1793). The Emigrants. 

Mary Wollstonecraft (2007). Maria: or, The Wrongs of Woman’ in ‘Mary’ and ‘ The Wrongs of Woman, ed. Gary Kelly. 

Jane Austen (1998). Mansfield Park, ed. Claudia L. Johnson. 

Barbara Taylor and Sarah Knott, ed. (2007). Women, Gender and Enlightenment. 

Vivien Jones, ed (1990). Women in the Eighteenth Century: Constructions of Femininity. 

Mary Wollstonecraft (1995). A Vindication of the Rights of Man and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, ed. Sylvana Tomeselli. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (1000 words) 25%
Essay  (3000 words) 75%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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