Date of Award

Spring 5-2018

Embargo Period

5-16-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

Advisor(s)

Kristina Straub

Abstract

This dissertation explores the intersections between gendered and religious identity in British novels of the 1790s that engage in revolutionary ideology and rhetoric. My work engages with two dominant cultural-historical narratives in eighteenth-century scholarship: first, the argument that the provenance of modern identity categories can be traced to the revolutionary period and the concomitant emergence of the rights-bearing individual and the bourgeois public sphere; and second, the secularization narrative that elides religion from a consideration of modern identity. Since religion is often positioned as antithetical to reason and the emancipating ideals of the Enlightenment, religion as a category of identity has been dismissed as suspect, repressive, or always already of the past. The main purposes of my dissertation are to consider how eighteenth-century religious identity can be interpreted as both fluid and performative, and to explore the ways in which gender as a modern identity category has been (both positively and negatively) influenced and constructed by its intersections with religion. This project analyzes four Jacobin novels from the period: Charlotte Smith’s Desmond, Elizabeth Inchbald’s A Simple Story, Helen Maria Williams’ Julia, and Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian. My work additionally examines how early feminist discourses were affected, resisted, and constructed by toleration and secularism in the eighteenth century, and how residual constructions of eighteenth-century and Romantic identity inform dominant political and social patterns today.

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