Major Women Writers: London, Chawton, Bath

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Next week my upper-division writing intensive literature class on women writers before Austen is going to the UK for an extended Spring Break field trip. We’ll be spending the first few days in London, with a day trip to Strawberry Hill (I know, I know… I just couldn’t help myself!); then we’re off to Chawton; and last but by no means least, two days in Bath. Among the many fun things we’re doing are a letterpress and early printing workshop at the St. Bride Foundation, and a visit to the Chawton House Library, both of which I’m particularly eager about. This is a group of non-majors, for the most part, finishing their core requirements, and that is in many ways a boon–we are more beholden to finding interesting ways to engage the material, and one of the things I’ve tried to do is incorporate more elements of material culture, which is perfect for a study abroad opportunity.

By this point in the term, students have discussed coterie manuscript writing (and we’ve learned how to letterlock!), amatory fiction, and the domestic novel, and they’ve also had the chance to see a few 18th century conduct books. Our special collections just received a grant to purchase some more books, and we added Nivelon’s Rudiments of Genteel Behavior and Allestree’s The Lady’s Calling, in addition to a few other wonderful materials. Everyone should have read a few poems, in addition to Behn’s “History of the Nun” and two works by Haywood, “Fantomina” and Love in Excess. We also read excerpts from Amanda Vickery’s The Gentleman’s Daughter in conjunction with (substantial!) excerpts from Burney’s Evelina. This week, we’ll be reading Austen’s Lady Susan during our travels! After our return, we’ll have some drama by Burney and Behn as well as some more poetry and a bit of Wollstonecraft and Astell on marriage to round out the term.