Accessibility statement

Wollstonecraft to Jane Austen:Femininity and Literary Culture

Module Convenor: Alison O'Byrne
Level: Postgraduate
Module Code: CES00004M
Credits: 20

This module will explore on changing uses of the language of sensibility and its implications for the status of women at the turn of the century. It will focus on representations of Wollstonecraft, and of women who bear some resemblance to her, in texts more or less sympathetic to the arguments of her Vindication of the Rights of Woman. We will consider the implications of her death and of the war with France for representations of women in sentimental fiction. 

Staff teaching on this module may include Mary Fairclough, Emma Major, Jon Mee, Alison O'Byrne, Gillian Russell, Jim Watt, and Chloe Wigston Smith

Provisional list of seminar texts

  • Mary Wollstonecraft, Vindication of the Rights of Women
    Mary Hays, The Memoirs of Emma Courtney
    Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey
    Anna Laetita Barbauld, selected writing
    Mary Wollstonecraft, Letters written during a short residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark
    Sydney Owenson, Lady Morgan, The Wild Irish Girl
    Charlotte Smith, selected writing
    Jane Austen, Persuasion


  • to introduce students to some of the best writing by British women in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries
  • to explore the relation between languages of sentiment and sensibility and the language of political controversy and debate in the period
  • to introduce students to the skills and techniques of interdisciplinary research

Subject content

  • a knowledge of the varieties of women’s writing of the period across a range of styles and genres
  • an awareness of some of the difficulties and possibilities for women in interacting with public life in the period
  • a knowledge of recent critical and historical work relevant to the topic

Academic and graduate skills

  • the research skills necessary to make good use of research resources available, including historical material such as newspapers and caricatures as well as literary texts
  • the research skills necessary to interdisciplinary study

One 4,500-word essay