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Title:Eighteenth-century fiction and the production of shame, 1680-1753
Author(s):Alderfer, Sarah
Director of Research:Markley, Robert
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Markley, Robert; Pollock, Anthony
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Gray, Catharine; Newcomb, Lori H.
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):English literature
women writers
novel studies
Abstract:This dissertation argues that eighteenth-century fiction problematizes the relationships among virtue, modesty, and shame. Where the conduct manual and the moral novel demonize the shameless female subject, women writers such as Aphra Behn, Eliza Haywood, and Charlottle Lennox consistently decouple shame from virtue to expose the limitations of the virtuous principles in the world of the conduct manual and moral novel. The introduction considers the historical relationship between the conduct manual, the moral novel, and women’s writing and the ways in which each engages in the production of shame, arguing that the moral novel of the mid-eighteenth century neither negates nor contains the power of amatory fiction but illustrates the inability of “virtue rewarded” to resolve the tensions within eighteenth-century fiction and the representation of female subjectivity. Chapter 1 argues that Behn’s amatory fiction, Love Letters Between a Nobleman and His Sister (1684), The Fair Jilt (1688), and The History of the Nun (1689), resist the culture of shame and guilt surrounding the sexually available, desiring, and dangerous woman, blurring the lines between the moral and the immoral and questions the conduct manual’s insistence that virtuous behavior liberates the female subject. Chapter 2 analyzes the ways in which the heroines of Haywood’s early amatory fiction test the limits of virtue and shame in sustaining a woman’s reputation, arguing that public reputation is more important than a woman’s internalized sense of honor. Haywood’s fiction experiments with the heroine’s recognition of the mechanisms of shame and her ability to manage her reputation and sexual subjectivity. Chapter 3 analyzes the anti-pamelist fiction by Haywood and Henry Fielding to argue that the virtuous example exalted by Samuel Richardson’s Pamela exposes women to, rather than preserves them from, sexual danger and endorses social expectations that demand the performance of virtue and shame as a means of economic and social survival. Chapter 4 explores the consequences of virtuous reading in Lennox’s novel The Female Quixote, arguing that Lennox questions the moral novel’s capacity to instill that sense of virtue which makes a heroine an appropriate wife and exposes the need to internalize shame to survive in the eighteenth-century world.
Issue Date:2012-06-27
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Sarah Elizabeth Alderfer
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-06-28
Date Deposited:2012-05

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