English and drama

Special Author: Mary Wollstonecraft

Module code: Q3183
Level 6
15 credits in autumn semester
Teaching method: Seminar
Assessment modes: Coursework

This module offers you the opportunity for in-depth study of the work of Mary Wollstonecraft, the influential writer and thinker widely regarded as the founder of modern feminism, as well as an important radical woman novelist. It will examine her novels Mary and The Wrongs of Woman and her travel writings, in addition to her famous polemical tracts, A Vindication of the Rights of Men and A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Wollstonecraft's writing participated in the heated literary and political debates of her time and excerpts from the writings of her contemporaries, including Mary Robinson's Letter to the Women of England, Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France and Mary Hays' Appeal to the Men of Great Britain will also feature on the module to illuminate such contexts.

Topics addressed include debates over female conduct, sentiment and sensibility, political revolution, sex and love, marriage, female friendship, commerce and the Gothic. Particular attention will be paid to the debates over the novel in the 1790s – Wollstonecraft's fiction will be considered alongside works by other radical female novelists in this context. Wollstonecraft's unconventional life made her notorious in her own time. The fact that she was not married to the father of her daughter, Fanny, was exposed when she later married the radical philosopher William Godwin. The module concludes by considering the question of female reputation by addressing Wollstonecraft's afterlife in the various representations of her after her death, including the infamous memoirs written by Godwin, and in the Mrs Freke character in Maria Edgeworth's novel Belinda.

Module learning outcomes

  • Understand the formal and generic developments of a named author's work.
  • Understand how the work has been shaped by the social, historical and intellectual contexts in which it was produced.
  • Through critical analysis of a range of the author¿s writing over his/her career, demonstrate an understanding of how his/her literary reputation was established and has been maintained.
  • Organise complex material into an essay that illustrates independent research.