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The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer: Ideology as Style in the Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Jane Austen

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"A brilliant, original, and powerful book. . . . This is the most skillful integration of feminism and Marxist literary criticism that I know of." So writes critic Stephen Greenblatt about The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer, Mary Poovey's study of the struggle of three prominent writers to accommodate the artist's genius to the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-centu "A brilliant, original, and powerful book. . . . This is the most skillful integration of feminism and Marxist literary criticism that I know of." So writes critic Stephen Greenblatt about The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer, Mary Poovey's study of the struggle of three prominent writers to accommodate the artist's genius to the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century ideal of the modest, self-effacing "proper lady." Interpreting novels, letters, journals, and political tracts in the context of cultural strictures, Poovey makes an important contribution to English social and literary history and to feminist theory. "The proper lady was a handy concept for a developing bourgeois patriarchy, since it deprived women of worldly power, relegating them to a sanctified domestic sphere that, in complex ways, nourished and sustained the harsh 'real' world of men. With care and subtle intelligence, Poovey examines this 'guardian and nemesis of the female self' through the ways it is implicated in the style and strategies of three very different writers."—Rachel M. Brownstein, The Nation "The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer is a model of . . . creative discovery, providing a well-researched, illuminating history of women writers at the turn of the nineteenth century. [Poovey] creates sociologically and psychologically persuasive accounts of the writers: Wollstonecraft, who could never fully transcend the ideology of propriety she attacked; Shelley, who gradually assumed a mask of feminine propriety in her social and literary styles; and Austen, who was neither as critical of propriety as Wollstonecraft nor as accepting as Shelley ultimately became."—Deborah Kaplan, Novel


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"A brilliant, original, and powerful book. . . . This is the most skillful integration of feminism and Marxist literary criticism that I know of." So writes critic Stephen Greenblatt about The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer, Mary Poovey's study of the struggle of three prominent writers to accommodate the artist's genius to the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-centu "A brilliant, original, and powerful book. . . . This is the most skillful integration of feminism and Marxist literary criticism that I know of." So writes critic Stephen Greenblatt about The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer, Mary Poovey's study of the struggle of three prominent writers to accommodate the artist's genius to the late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century ideal of the modest, self-effacing "proper lady." Interpreting novels, letters, journals, and political tracts in the context of cultural strictures, Poovey makes an important contribution to English social and literary history and to feminist theory. "The proper lady was a handy concept for a developing bourgeois patriarchy, since it deprived women of worldly power, relegating them to a sanctified domestic sphere that, in complex ways, nourished and sustained the harsh 'real' world of men. With care and subtle intelligence, Poovey examines this 'guardian and nemesis of the female self' through the ways it is implicated in the style and strategies of three very different writers."—Rachel M. Brownstein, The Nation "The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer is a model of . . . creative discovery, providing a well-researched, illuminating history of women writers at the turn of the nineteenth century. [Poovey] creates sociologically and psychologically persuasive accounts of the writers: Wollstonecraft, who could never fully transcend the ideology of propriety she attacked; Shelley, who gradually assumed a mask of feminine propriety in her social and literary styles; and Austen, who was neither as critical of propriety as Wollstonecraft nor as accepting as Shelley ultimately became."—Deborah Kaplan, Novel

30 review for The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer: Ideology as Style in the Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Jane Austen

  1. 4 out of 5

    Witkinddavis

    The book is a deep scholarly dive into how some women managed to become authors in the late 18th and early 19th centuries despite the strictures of propriety that controlled their behavior. Respectable women could write if they didn’t seek recognition, just as they could do quilting and needlework. Publication, however, was disreputable. The proper lady was a guardian of femininity. Mary Poovey uses the careers of three authors to explain and advance her arguments: Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shel The book is a deep scholarly dive into how some women managed to become authors in the late 18th and early 19th centuries despite the strictures of propriety that controlled their behavior. Respectable women could write if they didn’t seek recognition, just as they could do quilting and needlework. Publication, however, was disreputable. The proper lady was a guardian of femininity. Mary Poovey uses the careers of three authors to explain and advance her arguments: Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley and Jane Austen. I skipped most of the chapters on the first two. Austen, Poovey says, was always ladylike and restrained but developed enough freedom to criticize the way the ethic of the proper lady deformed women’s desires. Poovey does not address the influence of the “proper lady” ideal in modern times. Certainly in my lifetime it has been an influence.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    While there was some interesting biographical information and parallels made in this book, it's rather dry and more for the academic reader than for anyone who gets pleasure from reading Wollstonecraft, Shelley, or Austen. Austen seems also an odd choice to include, considering that in most of her books she satirizes the kind of Gothic novel that Shelley was known to write, (Frankenstein anyone?) and the chapters concerning her work seem tacked on at the end. Almost as if the writer thought gee, While there was some interesting biographical information and parallels made in this book, it's rather dry and more for the academic reader than for anyone who gets pleasure from reading Wollstonecraft, Shelley, or Austen. Austen seems also an odd choice to include, considering that in most of her books she satirizes the kind of Gothic novel that Shelley was known to write, (Frankenstein anyone?) and the chapters concerning her work seem tacked on at the end. Almost as if the writer thought gee, I need another female writer, who's really popular right now and might get this book noticed? And went the Austen route. As one does.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ginger Price

    Fairly interesting feminist/Marxist treatment of 18th and 19th century female writers

  4. 5 out of 5

    Monica Chagas da costa

  5. 5 out of 5

    sawsan salman atia

  6. 5 out of 5

    Lydia

  7. 5 out of 5

    Allen Severino

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kathy Strong

  9. 5 out of 5

    Christie

  10. 5 out of 5

    Charles Njoku

  11. 5 out of 5

    Alba

  12. 4 out of 5

    Yvncxx

  13. 5 out of 5

    Yxuzhen

  14. 5 out of 5

    Msafiri Ramadhani

  15. 4 out of 5

    Is Anderss

  16. 4 out of 5

    Christine Jakel

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sam

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rikke

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kelley Sherlock

  20. 5 out of 5

    Susan

  21. 4 out of 5

    Avia Perez

  22. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

  23. 5 out of 5

    Heather

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jude Wright

  25. 5 out of 5

    Miracle P

  26. 5 out of 5

    Alba Türme

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alycia

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mikee Delony

  29. 4 out of 5

    Renee Jones

  30. 4 out of 5

    Patricia stewart

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