Women, Marriage, and the Gendering of Enlightened Reason
This course will focus on literary depictions of the marriage bond in early modern European literature in order to examine relationships male and female authors drew between women protagonists and "Enlightened" procedures of reason, thought, and social emancipation. The early modern idea of Enlightened reason traditionally excluded women due to what was considered to be their innate feminine characteristics. Yet certain authors challenged or engaged with this gendered dynamic, offering not only novel interpretations of eligible or married women's place in the social fabric, but also criticism of the types of behavior women assumed in order to maintain autonomy.
We will read and analyze a selection of texts from the French and British traditions that explore the following themes and questions: Did feminism exist in the early modern period? How did authors articulate the dynamic between marriage, consent, and social power? By what means were reason and the emotions gendered? Why did women writers appear to prefer the epistolary genre? How were women socially "othered"? What was the role of female sexuality in conceptions of pleasure and freedom?
- Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew
- Lafayette, The Princesse de Clèves
- Graffigny, Letters from a Peruvian Woman
- Charrière, Letters of Mistress Henley Published by her Friend
- Fielding, Shamela
- Additional short readings, available on bCourses