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Romantic Women Writers and the Question of Economic Progress

Published: 1 March 2013
Charlotte Smith

Professor Emma Clery has won a prestigious three-year Leverhulme Major Fellowship to write a monograph on focusing on Romantic women writers’ interventions, as active thinkers and commentators, into debates on economic change.

Emma will examine how writers such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Smith, Anna Letitia Barbauld, and Jane Austen engaged in critical examination of modernity, whether by addressing consumer culture, commercialism and the slave trade, questioning imperialism, the system of public credit, and the new dominance of finance capitalism, or re-examining gender hierarchy as an anomalous feature of the new social order.

But Emma is keen to remind us that debates she is researching do not only belong to the past; as part of the project, Emma will also produce a monthly blog discussing parallels between Romantic-era debate on economics and present-day events ‘These women’s writings are bold, ambitious and visionary. They’re designed to speak to posterity, and I’m hoping that the blog will bring to a new audience their timely critiques of assumptions about progress and the association of modernity and economic growth’. As part of the project, the Southampton Centre for Eighteenth-Century Studies will also host a conference on Literature and Economics at Chawton House Library on 4-5 July 2014.

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