Women’s writing from 1660-1800 took many different forms, and in this class we will study plays, letters, novels, memoirs, poetry, and prose treatises. One theme we will return to throughout the semester is adventure. We will apply the term adventure broadly, and we will work to identify the adventurous aspects of the texts we encounter. Some texts, such as the captivity narratives by Mary Rowlandson and Susannah Johnson, deal directly with their author’s real adventures. Other more scandalous texts written in the period offered fictive tales of women’s adventures in love and sexual exploration, while proto-feminist authors such as Mary Astell and Mary Wollstonecraft argued that women should venture beyond the traditional confines of the home.
While reading the works of these female authorial pioneers, we will ask questions such as: What is the relationship between physical space/movement and (female) agency? In what ways do women’s travel and captivity narratives both transgress and embrace traditional seventeenth- and eighteenth-century ideals of femininity? How and why were women’s authorial endeavours equated with (illicit) sexual adventures? How do women write about their domestic lives and labour? Are women’s adventures sustainable, or do they end with marriage?