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Women and Property in Late Eighteenth-Century Fiction: Gendered Property and Generic Belonging in Charlotte Smith and Mary Wollstonecraft

Kramer, Kaley (2009) Women and Property in Late Eighteenth-Century Fiction: Gendered Property and Generic Belonging in Charlotte Smith and Mary Wollstonecraft. Literature Compass, 6 (6). pp. 1145-1158.

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Abstract

The relationship between women and property has been a central investigative concern for literary scholars in recent years. While there can be little doubt that women made up an important part of the increased print market and audience of the 18th century, their participation in other aspects of public life remained highly regulated and constrained by legal requirement and cultural conventions. Yet print offered women an opportunity to explore new kinds of property and foster new communities of sympathetic readers equally versed in literary convention and real-life experiences of oppression. Writing at the end of a century of dramatic change in marriage legislation, property law, and social expectations, Mary Wollstonecraft and Charlotte Smith examine the relationship between gender and genre through the lens of property and ownership. Their novels challenge the limits of generic representation and gesture towards the paradoxical construction of women as marginal and central to the inheritance of real property. Most interestingly, for the purposes of this paper, both demonstrate a keen awareness of the importance of genre and the central role of narrative, not only in fiction but also in relation to discourses that shape women’s roles in and relationship with families, social groups, and national communities.

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
DOI: 10.1111/j.1741-4113.2009.00658.x
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
School/Department: School of Humanities, Religion & Philosophy
URI: http://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/215

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