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This book examines women’s domestic occupations in the Romantic-period novel at the most intimately human level. By examining the momentary thought and feeling processes that informed the playing of a harp, the stitching of a dress, or the reading of a gothic novel, the book shifts the focus from women’s socio-cultural contributions through domestic endeavor to how women’s day-to-day tasks shaped experiences of joy, friendship, resentment, and self. Through an understanding of domestic occupations as forms of human action, the study emphasises the inherent unpredictability of quotidian activities and draws attention to their capacity for exceeding cultural parameters. Specifically, the book examines needlework, musical accomplishment, novel reading, and sensibility in the work of Charlotte Smith, Jane Austen, and Francis Burney, giving new perspectives on established canonical works while also providing the most sustained analysis of Charlotte Smith’s little studied novel, Ethelinde, to date.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
This chapter engages previous scholarship on women and the domestic sphere in the long eighteenth century by highlighting that earlier research has tended to view women’s domestic activities within a broad historical narrative. Through this, Morrissey distinguishes the approach of Women’s Domestic Activity in the Romantic-Period Novel, 1770–1820: Dangerous Occupations. Rather than viewing female domestic participation primarily in terms of its cultural or sociopolitical significance, his book places the main emphasis on how women’s day-to-day endeavours were informed by momentary thought and feeling processes, and how they created a personal sense of self and interpersonal relationships. The introduction also provides a rationale for the authors studied (Charlotte Smith, Jane Austen, Francis Burney) by emphasising the uniquely subjective perspectives each brings to the discussion.
Joseph Morrissey

Chapter 2. Needlework in Charlotte Smith’s The Old Manor House and Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park

Abstract
Morrissey examines representations of needlework in Smith’s The Old Manor House and Austen’s Mansfield Park to reveal how these authors staged the conflict between women’s work as agency and women’s work as enforcing gender inequality. In The Old Manor House in particular, the heroine’s work with needles and pins exposes the sexual desire that underwrites masculine codes of chivalry and romantic love. In Mansfield Park, women’s work emerges as a subtle but powerful force in structuring social relationships and domesticity. Further, Fanny Price’s embroidery and plain work enable privacy and quiet reflection, and as such are implicated in Austen’s imagined construction of interiority. The chapter also charts how Austen links women’s work to an overarching ideology of taste, thereby shedding new light on the author’s sociopolitical and cultural values.
Joseph Morrissey

Chapter 3. Musical Accomplishment in Frances Burney’s The Wanderer

Abstract
In this chapter, Morrisey analyses how Romantic-period women subjectively experienced the act of musical performance through a reading of Burney’s The Wanderer. His research also examines how this experience of music was shaped by society and the wider musical culture of the period. Burney’s presentation of musical practice, Morrisey argues, shows how it could alienate women from their friends and from their self-identity. Conversely, by charting Burney’s imagined reformation of music, the chapter also illuminates the opportunities for music to form a meaningful part of women’s lives, implicated in self-realisation and human intimacy. Finally, it examines moments of contradiction in Burney’s novel to reveal her difficulties in squaring a genuine love of music with paternal authority and a cultural ideal of femininity.
Joseph Morrissey

Chapter 4. Reading Novels in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey

Abstract
Drawing on twentieth-century developmental psychology and research on the psychology of reading, this chapter examines the experience of reading fiction in the Romantic period through discussion of Austen’s Northanger Abbey. Moving beyond the didactic debates about novels in the period, Morrissey shows how Austen presents the experience of fiction as a function of psychological growth and of internal consciousness in ways which anticipate twenty-first century, Western understandings of the phenomenon. By mapping the different approaches to reading of the presented characters onto the mixing of genres of the text, the chapter illustrates how Austen seeks to foster an integrated approach to interpreting fiction in the reader, one that points to a way of experiencing lived reality that is at once imaginative, joyful, analytical and sympathetic.
Joseph Morrissey

Chapter 5. Sensibility in Charlotte Smith’s Ethelinde

Abstract
This chapter discusses Romantic understandings of sensibility in Smith’s early novel, Ethelinde. Drawing on Arlie Hoschild’s twentieth-century analysis of the commodification of emotions, Morrissey breaks down the Romantic association of sincerity of feeling with virtue by illustrating how the text’s eponymous heroine uses authentic emotions for self-interested purposes. The chapter also unpacks Smith’s presentation of the female heiress, elucidating a double bind in which propertied women are not obligated to develop refined feelings to placate men, but become vulnerable to fortune-hunters because of the resulting lack of emotional intelligence. The chapter nuances the view that equates technical excellence in the long eighteenth-century novel with free indirect discourse, by arguing that the absence of free indirect discourse in Smith’s novel makes possible her social critique.
Joseph Morrissey

Chapter 6. Conclusion

Abstract
Morrissey concludes the book by illustrating how the domestic occupations studied upset the boundaries between physical and psychological endeavour, and between work and leisure. A better way of conceptualising women’s different daily activities, the chapter argues, is through recognising their shared status as forms of human action. Through this, the chapter reconsiders the relationship between the long eighteenth-century ‘public’ and ‘private’ spheres. Since both are arenas for human action, both carry the possibility for self-expression and unanticipated interpersonal consequences, emphasising their essential continuity. Morrissey finishes by acknowledging that human endeavour remains locked in an ongoing struggle against the cultural norms which drain its power for self-realisation.
Joseph Morrissey

Backmatter

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