ENG307H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 9: British Nationalism, Epithalamium, Anna Laetitia Barbauld

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25 Nov 2012
ENG307 - Lecture 9 - October 10th
Hannah Cowley (1743-1809)
Belle's Stratagem (1780) was one of the most celebrated dramas of its time. It debuted at Drury
Lane Theatre & enjoyed an initial run of 28 performances
- also takes on the conventional male role of the wit - in doing so, transforms self from mere female type to
a female subject (characterized by agency, wit & intelligence)
- idea of playing with selves
- issue of nationalism in this play - not only a window into fashionable life at the time & one woman's
efforts to navigate, but also a window into a time of war - time of American revolution - Britain losing its
colonies - especially since tied to notion of nation & nationhood - how do we constitute the idea of a
nation? - this play does that, defines what an [English] nation is
- espousing British nationalism, feeling especially patriotic, Cowley capitalizes on this (e.g. anti-French
sentiment) - to sell her play, incite patriotic fervour ("Englishmen make the best..." Act I scene iii) ("no
man...real friend not born under British sky") - notice that Doricourt praises the English nation via its men
(references to any "man")
- nation is constituted by the actions & behaviour of its men; English-ness characterized as this male thing
- this gendered idea of nationhood
- Doricourt views English women very differently - longs for the spirit, fire, that something/nothing of a
continental woman; over course of play, falls in love with Letitia (an English woman)
- "and cursed be the hour...British ladies sacrifice..." - what is Cowley doing here by the end of this play;
how do we want to read this conversion of Doricourt, seeing the value of the British women
- in terms of gender, nationhood, what's going on - imperialism, colonialism, etc. (reaches peak in
Victorian period) - not having to go abroad, idea of conquering; patriotism; distinctions between self &
other - sense here of English men going abroad, finding women elsewhere, diminishing this intensity of
this quality, potential strength of the English nation by diffusing that nationhood; but if focus on idea of the
English women as well, this English nation being a stronger, fuller, more complete idea as it is defined
against the other
- distinction between self & other becomes important here
- definition of domestic - @ this time in Britain, get the complement which has to do with something
interesting or occurring particularly in a country - here we have Cowley aligning these two concepts, of
womanhood & the nation itself; thinking about the word 'domestic' is a nice way to imagine the
connections there
- domestic as this expansive concept denoting both the home & the nation - tool in this drama, positing that
the idea of a sound nation is to be derived not only via men, but also the alliances its men make with
women; nation itself can be compromised if its men look elsewhere outside the nation
- valourization of nation & national identity, promotion of this patriotic pride, via a woman; shift in focus
is important - patriotism, positive quality, affection for one's nation, country - but can also start to verge on
xenophobia, fear of others, irrational prejudice against people who aren't of your nation
- division between self & other + this strengthening of nation, start thinking of the other as degraded in
full; characterization of a lot of people from other countries (the French, Nabobs [English men who'd come
back from India very rich], Chinese, Turks, Jewish people, all these derogatory terms)
- @ same time, promotes a kind of cosmopolitan idea; we're not distinct, even while separating self from
other, realizing that we're not as distinct from them as we think; protective strategy, especially during time
of war
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- pg. 259: Act IV "why, I'd be all" "gay, capricious, etc." "live with him in the eye of fashion, or in
retirement, change my country" - Letitia, at the same time, willingness to go anywhere, "change my sex" -
espousing something that goes against the grain of the play; in some ways, this play is a real contemplation
on self & other, strengthening nationhood, infiltration of other peoples into the country; @ same time,
Letitia celebrating this global world & the possibilities that exist in that
- also have this idea of the marketplace; father taking on identity of Isaac Mendoza - integrated into
English society, becoming English men - sense of disdain, also a recognition that by virtue of being in
English space, becoming part of what's constituted as England
- idea that this sophisticated life meant you ate French food, spoke French - lot of concern - even as there's
a degradation of French culture going on, also a valourization of it (even through the praising of the
characters in the beginning)
- women, best appreciated set against this backdrop of the international marketplace; women here still
being a commodity on some level; (all these women of different nationalities, who would you choose);
idea of Letitia's beauty best exemplified against this backdrop [global]
The State of Women in 18th C England
Relegated to the domestic realm, the realm of home & family
Not allowed to attend university
Education: basic literacy, embroidery, singing; playing a piano or harpsichord; dancing, sketching;
conversational French or Italian. Women were trained for courtship and for male pleasure.
Not given a public voice; could not vote
Women were discouraged from writing or expressing their ideas openly; it was considered
Prevalent notion that only men could reason and, as such, were the only sex capable of virtuous
Expected to be chaste before and after marriage
Could not own property, form contracts, or conduct business. They had no legal status. They were
themselves property, to be exchanged among men.
Divorce could be granted only by husbands, who would then retain custody of all property
(including the dowry) and the children
Often succumbed to abusive marriages in order to maintain their connection to their children
"Obedience" was expected from women and sanctioned by religion, law, and custom
Rebellious daughters who refused their father's choice of a husband could be disowned
# coquette, limitations, settling down to one man, etc.
- divorce was really expensive, very rare (even then, only aristocrats); if separated from husband, meant
loss of kids; most women didn't have much say in their destinies, marriages were arranged, seen primarily
as a means of uniting families to increase social rank or fortune
- in case of divorce, property to husband {was 'pin money' though, kind of like an allowance, for
purchasing say, fabric for dresses, music to play on the harpsichord, etc.} - this pin money was negotiated
with the marriage contract (how much you'd receive per month/year)
- a woman could only become financially independent if widowed (aristocrat or upper class widow);
gender roles in this period were very strict - the rule of the day, the norm; things we're reading are trying to
shake up/challenge those
- men had more freedom; received education, involved in politics, engaged in the arts (women could only
engage in the arts on a much lower level)
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