Thalia's Daughters

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

Monday, December 04, 2006


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?


Blogger Ancient of Daze said...

With regard to these last 2 women playwrights not being produced: "Stageability" has been a concept I've been struggling with since the start of the course. I can't help preferring those plays that I can imagine working on the stage, to the detriment of the closet drama. Baillie's play in particular from last week was one I did not like because it would seem to work poorly on stage (but would work well in novel form).
Should we be depressed? Is the 18th century closing with female playwrights becoming more marginal than they were at the start? Well, the actor/ director part of me says, no, these plays just don't work as well on stage; it doesn't necessarily mean female playwrights are becoming marginalized. Theatre in general at this time is giving way to the ascendency of the novel and the lyric poem.
Yet I am not so patriarchal that I do not see that being women does have something to do with it. These plays are not as "stageable" because, since the passing of David Garrick, female playwrights don't have the sympathetic mentors required for any playwright -- male or female -- to turn promising drama into something that works well in performance. Also, the Grub Street press (which we see in "The Witlings") savaged anyone who dared enter public life, and, with the growing inexpensiveness of print and the rising popularity of reading, women had an alternative that wasn't as easily available in, say, Aphra Behn's day: They could get their plays printed and avoid the hurly-burly of the theatre entirely. Who can blame them?

12/04/2006 10:23 a.m.  

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