Compliance and Power in the Eighteenth-Century Domestic Novel
Publication Year: 2005
Helen Thompson's Ingenuous Subjection offers a new feminist history of the eighteenth-century domestic novel. By reading social contract theory alongside representations of the domestic sphere by authors such as Mary Astell, Mary Davys, Samuel Richardson, Eliza Haywood, and Frances Sheridan, Thompson shows how these writers confront women's paradoxical status as both contractual agents and naturally subject wives. Over the long eighteenth century, Thompson argues, domestic novelists appropriated the standard of political modernity advanced by John Locke and others as a citizen's free or "ingenuous" assent to the law. The domestic novel figures feminine political difference not as women's deviation from an abstract universal but rather as their failure freely or ingenuously to submit to the power retained by Enlightenment husbands.
Ingenuous Subjection claims domestic novelists as vital participants in Enlightenment political discourse. By tracing the political, philosophical, and generic significance of feminine compliance, this book revises our literary historical account of the rise of the novel. Rather than imagining a realm of harmonious sentiment, domestic fiction represents the persistent arbitrariness of eighteenth-century men's conjugal power. Ingenuous Subjection revises feminist theory and historiography, locating the genealogy of feminism in a contractual model of ingenuous assent which challenges the legitimacy of masculine conjugal government. The first study to treat feminine compliance as something other than a passive, politically neutral exercise, Ingenuous Subjection recovers in this practice the domestic novel's critical engagement with the limits of Enlightenment modernity.
Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press
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Perhaps it is my own childhood education, alienating and yet hard to shake, in the practice of politeness that draws me to the claustrophobic aspect of Frances Burney’s novels. My students, on the other hand, do not identify. ...
1. Boys, Girls, and Wives: Post-Patriarchal Power and the Problem of Feminine Subjection
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Aphra Behn dedicates The History of the Nun; or, The Fair Vow-Breaker (1689) to “the Most Illustrious Princess, The Duchess of Mazarine.”1 The infamous Duchess, Hortense Mancini, was disastrously married at age thirteen to become, her Memoires (1676)...
2. Mushrooms, Subjects, and Women: The Hobbesian Individual and the Domestic Novel
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To convert its protagonist from a flirt into a dutiful wife, Mary Davys’s The Reformed Coquet admits the assistance of not just one but two “improbable”1 events. Before she is rescued by the “graceful, fine, well-shaped Man” whom her elderly guardian...
3. "The Words Command and Obey": Pamela and Domestic Modernity
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In A Treatise of Human Nature (1739–40), David Hume offers the following scene to illustrate the “principle of the connexion of fear with uncertainty”: ...
4. Eliza Haywood's Philosophical Career: Ingenuous Subjection and Moral Physiology
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The protagonist of Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina; or, Love in a Maze (1725), a nameless “Young Lady of distinguished Birth, Beauty, Wit, and Spirit,” assumes a series of disguises to seduce the same inconstant man.1 ...
5. Charlotte Lennox and the Agency of Romance: Ingenuous Subjection and Genre
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The following passage from Charlotte Lennox’s The Female Quixote (1752) amply conveys this novel’s sense of its generic mandate. Lennox’s protagonist Arabella, left motherless in the country with her reclusive father, has devoted her childhood to reading...
6. Frances Sheridan's "disingenuous girl": Ingenuous Subjection and Epistolary Form
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In An Inquiry Concerning Virtue or Merit (1699; revised 1711), Anthony Ashley Cooper, the Third Earl of Shaftesbury, reverses the genealogy of the “civil state or public” laid out by his tutor, John Locke, to imagine the geneticizing force of an education designed to “lead men into that...
Conclusion: "Marriage has bastilled me for life": Mary Wollstonecraft's Domestic Novel
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In chapter 11 of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), entitled “Duty to Parents,” Mary Wollstonecraft cites John Locke’s Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1693) to explain how women are not born, but made, “abject slaves”:1...
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Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2005