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Haunting History: Women, Catholicism, and the Writing of National History in Sophia Lee's The Recess

Kramer, Kaley (2014) Haunting History: Women, Catholicism, and the Writing of National History in Sophia Lee's The Recess. In: Kramer, Kaley and Chappell, Julie, (eds.) Women During the English Reformations: renegotiating gender and religious identity. New York and London, Palgrave Macmillan (USA), pp. 129-144

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Abstract

This chapter explores strategies of re-writing British history in The Recess, with particular attention to the ways in which hagiography and historiography shape responses to the nation’s past. The assumption of Catholicism as Britain’s foreign ‘other’ ignores the experiences of British Catholics and the tenacity of history and tradition that does not necessarily obey political or legislative edicts. Lee’s adaptation of British history for the purposes of her late eighteenth-century audience is apparent in some respects and subtle in others. Catholicism is explicitly condemned but is not expelled from the narrative; it enables particular discourses associated with haunting and spectrality that the ‘Age of Reasons’ sought to distance. Linked with primitivism, superstition, and political tyranny, Catholicism represents antithesis of the kind of individual and collective freedom that increasingly defined the desired ‘Britain’. The Recess returns to the site of Protestant Britain’s mythological origin and produces possible strategies of mourning and remembering, linking together Britain’s abandoned Catholic heritage and women’s experiences of cultural abandonment with hagiographic and historiographic strategies of narrating national history.

Item Type: Book Section
Status: Published
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
School/Department: School of Humanities, Religion & Philosophy
URI: http://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/221

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