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Commitment in British Women Writers’ Novels of the 18th and 19th Centuries
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As soon as novels developed, women played an important role both as readers and as authors, since among the 2,000 works which were published in the 18th century, 600 were written by women. One can then wonder about the way they used that means of expression and ask whether Mary Wollstonecraft opened the path for a British female literature characterized by commitment through her desire for political and social equality with men. Let us specify that during that conference the term “commitment” will be used in the sense it had in the 18th and 19th centuries rather than in the sense it took in the 20th century.
Some could focus on the different aspects of commitment whether it is political, social, religious, moral, intellectual, artistic… It would also be quite interesting to consider the sources of inspiration for that commitment in novels by Hannah More, Mary Wollstonecraft, Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot, Margaret Oliphant, or the Brontës (this is not an exhaustive list). Besides one could deal with the role played by some major figures such as Harriet Martineau or Harriet Taylor Mill, John Stuart Mill’s wife, but also by some ideals and among them that of the “New Woman”.
Other proposals could be centred on the form that commitment takes on. Does it influence women writers’ strategies for articulating their experience? How does commitment characterize the very text? Does it make itself known always strikingly? And more generally are women writers’ means of expression the same as those adopted in the society of the time? Please send your proposals (one A4 page maximum) before 1st December 2009 to Elise Ouvrard (firstname.lastname@example.org).