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British Women Writers and the Writing of History, 1670-1820

, 288 pages
May 2003
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British Women Writers and the Writing of History, 1670-1820

Chosen by Choice Magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title

Until recently, history writing has been understood as a male enclave from which women were restricted, particularly prior to the nineteenth century. The first book to look at British women writers and their contributions to historiography during the long eighteenth century, British Women Writers and the Writing of History, 1670-1820, asks why, rather than writing history that included their own sex, some women of this period chose to write the same kind of history as men—one that marginalized or excluded women altogether. But as Devoney Looser demonstrates, although British women's historically informed writings were not necessarily feminist or even female-focused, they were intimately involved in debates over and conversations about the genre of history.

Looser investigates the careers of Lucy Hutchinson, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Charlotte Lennox, Catharine Macaulay, Hester Lynch Piozzi, and Jane Austen and shows how each of their contributions to historical discourse differed greatly as a result of political, historical, religious, class, and generic affiliations. Adding their contributions to accounts of early modern writing refutes the assumption that historiography was an exclusive men's club and that fiction was the only prose genre open to women.

Devoney Looser is a professor of English at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She is the editor of Jane Austen and Discourses of Feminism and coeditor (with E. Ann Kaplan) of Generations: Academic Feminists in Dialogue.

"Essential to feminist scholarship in its objective and individualized approach to these authors."

"Devoney Looser's book is important. It establishes the historical consciousness at the core of the achievements of a group of notable women writers over a period of a century and a half... This book achieves its goal of bringing to our attention a series of meritorious writers and texts that exemplify the important place occupied by women in the intellectual life of eighteenth-century England."

"An excellent pioneering study of women's contribution to historiography in the long eighteenth century... Looser's work opens up several potential theses and books on historiography by women by drawing attention to the sheer range of possibilities of engagement with history as a form of writing."

"Taken together, Looser's seven chapters make a persuasive case for locating women's authorship in a broader field of writing than usual."

"This is a highly intelligent book... Looser's arguments are stepped in the current scholarship on each of these women, and she is a generous scholar who always gives credit where it is due... she will have you thinking about [genre] as you never have before."

" British Women Writers and the Writing of History, 1670-1820, is an original, ambitious, and exciting book. No study like it currently exists, and the subject is one that has needed to be addressed for some time. Looser covers her topic with impressive scope and detail, ably deploying biographical background, reception theory, and close readings of the works themselves to evaluate the writers."

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