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Lecture 9

ENG307 - Lecture 9

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Terry Robinson

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- 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 consi
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