By Elizabeth Eger (auth.)

ISBN-10: 0230250505

ISBN-13: 9780230250505

ISBN-10: 1349301949

ISBN-13: 9781349301942

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Extra resources for Bluestockings: Women of Reason from Enlightenment to Romanticism

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42 Myers drew attention to the crucial role of family and friendship networks in establishing the bluestockings’ identity as an intellectual circle, arguing for the interdependent relationship between learning, virtue and the life of the mind for eighteenth-century women. This book builds upon Myers’s argument, expanding her focus on a series of individual case studies to treat women’s collective identity in more depth but also in more breadth, across a number of different cultural contexts, including those of emerging debates about the moral implications of luxury and the national significance of the fine arts.

However, the ‘living muses’ were not merely ornamental icons of patriotic pride but women of independence and confidence, who intervened influentially in the major cultural debates of their times. With the exception of Montagu, who was a famous patron of the arts, all the writers portrayed were professionals who earned a living from their work, keeping strict account of their income. They valued rational excellence in their pursuit as writers and educationalists, philosophers and poets. The Nine Living Muses of Great Britain represents an Enlightenment ‘republic of letters’ in which women’s intellect was cultivated as a moral duty.

Although women writers gained acceptance and prestige, becoming the spokeswomen for cultural change, these critics argue that they did so only by constructing a discourse that ‘reformed’ women by locking them into a ‘disciplinary’ domestic sphere. ’47 While Gallagher is perhaps over-simplifying the arguments of Spencer and Armstrong, whose work has changed the map of fiction in this period, there is a widespread tendency to classify successful women writers as belonging to a domestic sphere and advocating a correspondingly conventional morality.

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