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Writing Women: Topics

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NYU-18C Home Writing Women 1700 - 1800 Schedule Directions Materials for Speakers




The past three decades have seen an explosion of pioneering and influential scholarship in eighteenth-century gender studies. Among literary scholars, energy has focused on recovering and contextualizing the works of "lost" women writers and on analyzing the representation of women in male- and female-authored texts.  More recently, new digital humanities resources have allowed scholars to add exponentially to earlier archival discoveries.  The Eighteenth-Century Collections Online aims to digitize every extant English and foreign-language title printed in Britain between 1701 and 1800, while the Orlando Project, an integrated history of women's writings in the British isles from the beginnings to the present, provides desktop access to and full search capabilities for nearly six million words of writing by women. Early American Imprints provides access to texts printed in the United States, regardless of where they were originally authored, allowing us to trace the circulation of texts and ideas through the colonies and early Republic. An expanded archive has heightened the call for us to understand eighteenth-century authors on their own terms: to confront, for instance, the deeply pious (or impious) nature of much eighteenth-century writing, or to historicize the relationship between "Literature" and the far broader expanse of written and printed texts.  But the expansion of the archive has also triggered new arguments for retrenchment (the argument, for instance, that literary scholars should focus on works of "high literary value"). The advantages and disadvantages of various scholarly boundaries and frameworks (national, aesthetic, disciplinary, and so on) will be one topic of discussion at our symposium.  Other topics will include seduction narratives, Afro-English writing, new work in European and circum-Atlantic comparative studies, the problem of presentism in eighteenth-century studies, the question of literary canons (necessary, unnecessary, or premature?) and questions of methodology,historiography, and foundational assumptions.



Our symposium will be hosted by the Fales Library and Special Collections at NYU, which holds a significant collection of rare books and other materials for the study of eighteenth-century women.  Among these materials is one of the world's finest collections of eighteenth-century novels, including works not only by well-known authors such as Daniel Defoe, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, Laurence Sterne, and Tobias Smollett but also by pioneering women writers such as Aphra Behn, Delarivier Manley, Eliza Haywood, Charlotte Lennox, Ann Radcliffe, Mary Wollstonecraft, Clara Reeve, Jane Austen, and Maria Edgeworth.





April Alliston, Professor of Comparative Literature at Princeton University, is the author of Virtue's Faults: Correspondences in Eighteenth-Century British and French Women's Fiction (Stanford, 1996) and the editor of The Recess; or, A Tale of Other Times, by Sophia Lee (Kentucky, 2000) and The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, Vol. D of The Longman Anthology of World Literature (Pearson Longman, 2004).  A Representative American:  James Fenimore Cooper's Life as Transnational Cultural Icon (co-authored with Pamela J. Schirmeister) is forthcoming from Addison Wesley Longman.  Professor Alliston is also working on a book titled Character and Plausibility: Gender and the Genres of Historical Narrative in English and French, 1650-1850, with the support of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies.

Paula R. Backscheider, our Plenary Speaker, is Philpott-Stevens Eminent Scholar at Auburn University.  She is the author of six single-authored books and the editor or co-editor of more than a dozen essay collections, editions, and publication series.  Her biography of Daniel Defoe, Daniel Defoe: A Life (Johns Hopkins, 1989) won the British Council Prize for the Best Book in the Humanities and her most recent book, Eighteenth-Century Women Poets and Their Poetry (JohnsHopkins, 2005) was a co-winner of the Modern Language Association James Russell Lowell Prize for the year's outstanding literary study.  She has also published some fifty essays and articles in essay collections and journals such as PMLA and ELH.  A former president of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, she has held fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Guggenheim Foundation.

Toni Bowers is Associate Professor of English and Women's Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.  She is the author of The Politics of Motherhood: British Writing and Culture, 1680-1760 (Cambridge, 1996) and numerous articles on eighteenth-century novels, drama, and intellectual prose and on literature of the American Enlightenment.  She is currently completing a book titled Force or Fraud: Tory Seduction Stories and the Problem of Resistance in British Seduction Narratives, 1670-1760. For several years now, she has co-chaired the University of Pennsylvania's Interdisciplinary Atlantic Studies Seminar.

Joanna Brooks is Associate Professor of English at San Diego State University.  Her book American Lazarus: Religion and the Rise of African-American and Native American Literatures (Oxford, 2003) was the winner of the Modern Language Association William Sanders Scarborough Award for outstanding book in African-American Literature. Her articles have appeared in Early American Literature, American Quarterly, William and Mary Quarterly, and elsewhere. She has edited several collections of work by Native American and Black Atlantic writers, including The Life of Olaudah Equiano (Lakeside Classics, 2004), “Face Zion Forward”: First Writers of the Black Atlantic, 1785-1798 (Northeastern, 2002), and The Collected Writings of Samson Occom, Mohegan: Literature and Leadership in Eighteenth-Century America (Oxford, 2006).

Simon Dickie (PhD Stanford, 2000), Assistant Professor of English at the University of Toronto, has published articles on eighteenth-century literature and popular culture in journals such as Eighteenth-Century Studies and Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture.  He is currently completing a book titled The Unsentimental Eighteenth Century, a groundbreaking, revisionary study of everyday laughter and cruelty in eighteenth-century society and comic literature (novels, jestbooks,farces, burlesque) which also takes to task the insistent progressivism of eighteenth-century studies.

Elizabeth Maddock Dillon, Associate Professor of English and American Studies at Northeastern University, writes on and teaches early American literature and
Atlantic colonialism.  Her book, The Gender of Freedom: Fictions of Liberalism and the Literary Public Sphere (Stanford, 2004), explores the workings of the literary public sphere from its colonial emergence through the antebellum flourishing of sentimentalism, placing representations of and by women at the center of her account.  She has published articles in American Literary History, American Literature, Diacritics and other journals, winning the Society of Early Americanists Essay Prize in 2005.  She is currently working on a book to be published by Duke University Press titled New World Drama: Theatre of the Atlantic,1660-1850.



Mary Poovey is Samuel Rudin University Professor of the Humanities and founder of the Institute for the History of the Production of Knowledge at New York University. She is the author of A History of the Modern Fact: Problems of Knowledge in the Sciences of Wealth and Society (Chicago, 1998), Making a Social Body: British Cultural Formation, 1830-1864 (Chicago, 1995), Uneven Developments: The Ideological Work of Gender in Mid-Victorian England (Chicago, 1989), The Proper Lady
and the Woman Writer: Ideology as Style in the Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Jane Austen (Chicago, 1984).  Her most recent book, Genres of the Credit Economy: Mediating Value in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain, has just been published by the University of Chicago Press.



Paula McDowell is Associate Professor of English at New York University.  Specializing in Eighteenth-Century British literary and cultural history and the History of the Book, she is the author of The Women of Grub Street: Press, Politics, and Gender in the London Literary Marketplace, 1678-1730 (Oxford, 1998) and the editor of Elinor James: Printed Writings (Ashgate, 2005).  She has also published numerous articles in journals such as PMLA and Eighteenth-Century Studies and essays in collections such as The Book History Reader (2nd edn., 2007), Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies After Elizabeth L. Eisenstein (U Massachusetts, 2007), and The Blackwell Companion to the Eighteenth-Century English Novel (Blackwell, 2005).  She is currently completing a book on print culture and genres of writing about orality in eighteenth-century Britain.

Bryan Waterman is Associate Professor of English at New York University.  Specializing in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century American literary and cultural history and the Revolutionary Atlantic World, he is the author of Republic of Intellect: The Friendly Club of New York City and the Making of American Literature (
Johns Hopkins, 2007).  He has also published articles in American Literary History, Early American Literature, and William and Mary Quarterly and is at work on two new book projects: one on seduction narratives in the Age of Revolution and the second (with Cyrus R. K. Patell) a cultural history of New York City.  In 2006, he was the recipient of a Golden Dozen Teaching Award at New York University, and in 2007 he was named a Faculty Research Fellow by the Humanities Council.  


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