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Research

Historical Fictions and Fictions of History, 1680-1830. One particular initial focus of the South Coast Group will be in the area of historical and political fiction of the long eighteenth-century.

Romantic Women Writers and the Fictions of History, a special issue of Women's Writing

In Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1818), her naive but ingenuous heroine Catherine Moreland notoriously pronounces that ‘real solemn history ‘either vex[es] or wear[ies]’ her: ‘the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all’.  Nonetheless, the eighteenth-century saw a rapid expansion in the forms of historical discourse, including a new emphasis on histories about and by women, and an invigoration of fictionalised forms of history. In particular, the period of the post-French Revolution debate and Napoleonic Wars saw a growth in the importance of the historical novel (as noted by Robert D. Hume), a generic development in which Romantic women writers played a crucial role. Yet this role often goes unacknowledged, in part because critics of the historical novel, following Georg Lukács, have traditionally taken Sir Walter Scott’s masculinist novel of historical progress as the seminal instance of the form. Although more recent work by Katie Trumpener and Richard Maxwell indicates a willingness to reassess Scott’s part in the genre’s development, the contribution of Romantic women writers to the form has yet to be extensively explored. Capitalising on this renewed interest in the origins and development of the historical novel, this special issue aims to fill the critical lacuna.

Introduction
“A Great Deal of History”: Romantic Women Writers and Historical Fiction
Fiona Price

Stéphanie-Félicité de Genlis and the French historical novel in Romantic Britain
Gillian Dow

The Great Man and Women’s Historical Fiction: Jane Porter and Sir Sidney Smith
Devoney Looser

“Experiments made by the Airpump”: Jane West’s The Loyalists (1812) and the Science of History
Fiona Price

Countering the Counter-Factual: Joanne Baillie’s Metrical Legends of Exalted Characters (1821) and the Paratexts of History
Porscha Fermanis

Eleanor Anne Porden’s Cœur de Lion (1822): History, Epic, and Romance
Adeline Johns-Putra

 

Other publications in this area include:

The Private History of the Court of England:
by Sarah Green

Editor: Fiona Price
Chawton House Library: Women's Novels
Chawton House Library

Political satire, ‘secret history’ and sexual exposé; from its initial publication in 1808 Sarah Green’s The Private History of the Court of England was met with a divided but impassioned critical reaction. Much of this response was due to Green’s scathing parody of the Prince of Wales through depicting the increasing corruption of ‘heir apparent’ (later Edward IV) during the troubled life of Henry VI. She paints a cutting portrait of greed, scandal and decadence, mocking the Prince’s descent from romantic hero Florizel to debauchee. In drawing parallels between the fourteenth century and her own era, Green explores the limits of the genre whilst simultaneously addressing some of the central discourses of the period: sexual freedom, social injustice and the British national identity.

In particular, this edition highlights the diversity of her writing – the novel’s ambitious political satire and use of the genre of historical novel is strikingly different to the commentary on the literary scene and female folly found in Romance Readers and Romance Writers, also published in Pickering & Chatto’s Chawton House series.