Thalia's Daughters

A weblog for English 6365: Women Onstage in the Long Eighteenth Century, at UNB.

Friday, February 02, 2007


Good or bad news, depending on how you look at it: it's a wiki world, at least according to the Globe and Mail.

Monday, January 29, 2007

So long, farewell

Folks, the marks are in and your papers are wending their way up the river to the Grad. English office. I wrote on them but am more than happy to correspond or sit down with anyone who wants to discuss their work in more detail. They were, to a one, a pleasure to read, and I would regard it as a favour if anyone who does anything further with theirs, keeps me apprised. Also available to consult, for anyone planning to rewrite.

You have all been most patient, awaiting your grades. A couple of you have asked about my father; he is on an even keel, not in any discomfort, and enjoying a Guinness whenever he can get it. Thank you for your best wishes.

I'm teaching a senior undergraduate course in Restoration/18thc drama this term; it has been designated an Honours seminar and there are some good students, all of whom are blogging. If you find yourselves nostalgic for witty maidens, reformed (or not) rakes, and blocking parents, feel free to drop by.

I really enjoyed our course. You were a great group.

All the best.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Mail down

My campus email seems to be down, for the second day. If any of you need to get in touch with me, you could email scribbling at gmail dot com.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Feedback on assignments

I have just emailed each of you feedback on all assignments but the final paper. Please let me know if you don't get it, or if you have any questions or concerns. I can certainly have a more detailed discussion about their assignments with anyone who is interested.

Have to turn some attention to my survey students; after that, your papers.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Mary Hamilton, Bluestocking

Just saw a link on a listserv I'm on, C18-L, to an article from The Observer: "Diaries reveal passions at the court of King George" by Vanessa Thorpe:

Mary Hamilton is being called 'the female Pepys' for her illuminating record of royal life at the end of the 18th century. Now a battle is being fought to save it for the nation. . . .

One of the early 'bluestockings', the term coined to describe the intellectual lady socialites of the day, Hamilton was a friend of the novelist Fanny Burney and an acquaintance of Horace Walpole, Samuel Johnson and James Boswell. In one letter she describes Burney's new novel, Cecilia, as 'a good lounging book' and elsewhere gives her opinions on Voltaire and on one of her other favourite works, The Origin and Progress of Writing and Printing by Thomas Astle, Keeper of the Tower Records: 'I should like to buy it but my pocket money won't allow of such indulgences.'


Reading your blogs I see lot's of interesting responses and good questions.

• Lady Smatter, her treatment, and her character over the two plays, are issues for more than one of you.

• Silence, speaking, women's learning and writing, are central concerns.

• Discomfort with Burney's apparent satirizing of the "learned lady" recurs in your blogs.

• Some of you ask, how can we read the final speeches in each play?

Kirsten has posted some excellent questions.

I would add a couple of other ideas for your consideration:

• How do these plays compare to others we have read? How does Burney negotiate the genre? How does she work with, or against, prevailing standards and tropes?

• We began the course with The Female Wits and are ending it with The Witlings. We also began the course with Cavendish's closet dramas, and we are ending it with two writers who had difficulty having their plays performed (I refer to Baillie here as well as Burney). Are these facts simply depressing, or can we say more about women writing for the stage over the century, give or take, that has passed?

Friday, December 01, 2006

On the internets, no-one knows you're a dog

Given elements of the recent conversation some of us were having on the Wiki talk pages, I wanted to post this: the "About" page of an academic blogger (a guy who works on the 18thc, in fact) in which he addresses the issue of the potentially detrimental effects some fear blogging may have on one's academic career. It's really good, and not just because he mentions me twice.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Literary Conversations

It strikes me, my dears, that we have been enacting elements of 18thc literary culture on the Wikipedia talkpage of Susanna Centlivre. Though which is foremost I cannot say: the fierce parry and thrust of sharp debate, the scurrilous mud-slinging of Grub Street, or the comedy of errors, complete with beleaguered maidens and blocking figures. It also strikes me that the whole kerfuffle is an object lesson in what happens when a woman picks up the pen (or keyboard) and enters into the hostile public sphere.

Only, like Cavendish's Lady Victoria, the woman in question also has an army of Amazons.

I would suggest that we all retire to the country for a period of contemplation, and debrief next week.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

One last thing . . .

I have to take my father for his treatment in the morning tomorrow but it usually doesn't take too long and I expect to be in F'ton on time for class. However, if I am a little late, don't worry. (In the unlikely event that I am really late, I will call Grad. English.)

Let me know

if you would all be interested in going out after our last class, for a drink/coffee, or for dinner?

Joanna Baillie

If you missed it last week in class, or on Kari's blog, she intends to focus her discussion on The Tryal; a good idea, I think.

Here are a couple of things that strike me about the play:

This is the second comedy we've read (the first was Cowley's The Belle's Stratagem in which the witty heroine asks and receives her guardian's permission for her machinations. How can we interpret this shift from the parent-less scenarios of earlier plays? Kari and Brenna suggest that the treatment of the parental figures is affirmative; is it also, in any sense, conservative?

Agnes pretends to be poor in order to find a man who is interested in her for herself. But why does she up the ante and pretend to be so bad-tempered? Any thoughts about the ethics of the women's subterfuge, in general?

Duthie's intro. discusses Baillie's privileging of "the natural" over "the situational." Is this true of The Tryal?

How does this play relate to the overarching theme of marriage we have been tracing throughout?

How do these characters relate to notions of community? Is the resolution as normative as those we have seen elsewhere?

Are these plays, as Baillie's detractors claim, unstagable?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Wikipedians (and you know who you are)

Two things:

There is a template to add to an entry if one is doing a big edit; see it here.

I have begun a list of early-modern women playwrights and have linked to all your posts (I hope). Feel free to add and distribute.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Lots of great posts

about The Times. A couple of ideas that I would like to pursue tomorrow:

— a comparison between the way "the marriage plot" has evolved in most of our plays to date, and this one (i.e. the secondary position of the Louisa plot; the married status of the main couple);

— class conflict (social climbing, the nouveau riche, etc.);

— a related issue: the social critique (the tawdry banality of "society," etc.) implied in the title;

— the economic focus;

— the use of some familiar tropes: the "blocking figure", the witty servants, the forced marriage.

And how does the end play out all these threads? Is it contained? Open-ended? Does it back-track, as so many endings seem to do?

Finally, is Rizzo correct that Griffith is merely a competent playwright?

"Beyond Recovery"

Just read the article by Jean Marsden that Andrea suggested to us and found it excellent. She addresses many of the concerns we have touched on in our discussions about projecting our own politics on to our writers. She mentions Pix, Trotter, and Manley specifically, but has a much wider focus. (And the article is short, as Andrea points out):

Marsden, Jean I. “Beyond Recovery: Feminism and the Future of Eighteenth-Century Literary Studies.” Feminist Studies 28.3 (Fall 2002): 657 – 662. Academic Search Elite. EBSCOhost.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


A quick note to let you all know that I am suddenly dealing with a consuming situation at home: my father was diagnosed with a terminal illness last week and has been hospitalized. Many unknowns at this point, and I will keep you posted about anything that might affect the course. But I am going to be slow getting your Wikipedia assignments back to you and you have a right to know why. I hope I won't have to cancel any classes as we have no wiggle room with presentations — we have one a week scheduled until the end of term — and I don't like to ask anyone to double up (if anyone is quite certain that their presentation/discussion will be on the short side and doesn't mind doubling up, let me know, just in case). But rest assured that the completion of the course will not be affected, whatever we may need to do to ensure that.