From Wollstonecraft to Jane Austen:Femininity and Literary Culture

Module Tutor: Member of CECS staff
Level: Postgraduate
Module Code: CECS00004M
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.

Provisional list of seminar texts

  • Mary Hays, Memoirs of Emma Courtney (1796)
  • Mary Wollstonecraft, Letters written during a short residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark (1796)
  • Mary Wollstonecraft, The Wrongs of Woman, or Maria (1799)
  • Charles Lloyd, Edmund Oliver (1798)
  • William Godwin, Memoirs of the author of the vindication of the rights of woman (1799), Hays’ and other posthumous accounts (photocopies).
  • Mary Robinson, Memoirs, and The Natural Daughter (1799)
  • Amelia Opie, Adeline Mowbray (1805)
  • Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility (1811)


Module aims

Module aims

  • 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

Module outcomes

Module outcomes

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



Mary Hays, Memoirs of Emma Courtney, ed., Eleanor Ty (Oxford: World’s Classics, 1st ed., 1996, rev. ed., 2009), or facsimile, ed., Jonathan Wordsworth (Oxford: Woodstock Press, 1995), or ed., Marilyn Brooks (Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview, 2000).

Mary Wollstonecraft, Letters written during a short residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark (Oxford: World’s Classics, 2009), eds Tonne Brekke and Jon Mee. With William Godwin, Memoirs of the author of the vindication of the rights of woman (London: Penguin, 1987), ed., Richard Holmes; or in Janet Todd and Marilyn Butler, Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, 7 vols (London: Picjering, 1999). Also on ECCO.

Mary Wollstonecraft, The Wrongs of Woman, or Maria, ed., Gary Kelly (Oxford: OUP, 1976, 2009); also with A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, eds A. Mellor and N. Chao (London: Longmans, 2006), and in Works. Also on ECCO.

Charles Lloyd, Edmund Oliver, ed., Jonathan Wordsworth, 2 vol. facsimile ed. (Oxford: Woodstock, 1990), or ed., Philip Cox in W. Verhoeven gen. ed. Anti-Jacobin Novels (London: Pickering, 2005). Also available on ECCO.

William Godwin, Memoirs of the author of the vindication of the rights of woman, ed., Pamela Clemit and Gina Luria Walker (Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview, 2001), also in Richard Homes ed.

Mary Robinson, Memoirs, in Women’s Theatrical Memoirs, ed., Sharon Setzer (London: Pickering, 2009)

Mary Robinson, The Natural Daughter, ed. Sharon Setzer (Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview, 2003)

Amelia Opie, Adeline Mowbray, eds Shelley King and John Pierce (Oxford: OUP, 1999), and ed., A. McWhir (Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview, 2010)

Reading list

Secondary Reading

Cecilia Lucy Brightwell, Memorials of the Life of Amelia Opie, selected and arranged from her Letters, Diaries, and other Manuscripts (Norwich: Fletcher and Alexander, 1854)

Marilyn L. Brooks, ed., The Correspondence of Mary Hays (1779-1843), British Novelist (Lewiston: Edwin Meller Press, 2004)

Harriet Jump, ed., Wollstonecraft, vol. 2 of Lives of the Great Romantics III: Godwin, Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley by their contemporaries, gen. ed., John Mullan (London: Pickering and Chatto, 1999)

Mary Wollstonecraft, The Collected Letters, ed., Janet Todd (London: Penguin, 2004)

Julie A. Carlson, England’s First Family of Writers: Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, Mary Shelley (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2007)

Arianne Chernock, Men and the Making of Modern British Feminism (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010)

Roxanne Eberle, ‘Amelia Opie’s Adeline Mowbray: Diverting the Libertine Gaze; or, the Vindication of a Fallen Woman,’ Studies in the Novel 26 (1994): 121-52.

Roxanne Eberle, Chastity and Transgression in Womens Writing, 1792-1897: Interrupting the Harlot’s Progress (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002)

Julie Ellison, Cato’s Tears and the Making of Anglo-American Emotion (Chicago: Chicago UP,1999)

Harriet Guest, Small Change: Women, Learning, Patriotism, 1750-1810 (Chicago: Chicago UP, 2000)

Carol Howard, ‘”The story of the pineapple”: Sentimental abolitionism and moral motherhood in Amelia Opie’s Adeline Mowbray’, Studies in the Novel, 30 (1998); 355-76;

Anne F. Janowitz, Women romantic poets: Anna Barbauld and Mary Robinson (London: Tavistock, 2004)

Jon Mee, Romanticism, Enthusiasm, and Regulation: Poetics and the policing of culture in the Romantic period (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003),

Mitzi Myers, ‘Godwin’s Memoirs of Wollstonecraft: The shaping of self and subject’, in Studies in Romanticism, 20:3 (1981: Fall), 299-316

Felicity Nussbaum, Torrid Zones: Maternity, Sexuality and Empire in Eighteenth-Century English Narratives (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1995)

Mark Philp, Godwin’s Political Justice (London: Duckworth, 1986)

Adela Pinch, Strange Fits of Passion: epistemologies of emotion, Hume to Austen, (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press: 1996)

Tilottama Rajan, ‘Framing the Corpus: Godwin’s “Editing” of Wollstonecraft in 1798’, in Studies in Romanticism, 39:4(2000: Winter), 511-31

William St Clair, The Godwins and the Shelleys: The Biography of a Family (London: Faber, 1989)

Barbara Taylor, Mary Wollstonecraft and the Feminist Imagination (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2003)

Janet Todd, Mary Wollstonecraft: A Revolutionary Life (London: Phoenix, 2000)

Joanne Tong ‘The Return of the Prodigal Daughter: Finding the Family in Amelia Opie’s Novels’, in Studies in the Novel, 36 (2004), 465-83


One 4,500-word essay