Women, Writing, Revolution

Module code: EN3153

Module co-ordinator: to be confirmed

From the raucous pamphlet wars and cartoons of the 1790s to the literary introspection of novels by Mary Hays and poems by Charlotte Smith, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Anna Letitia Barbauld, this module aims to uncover different forms of social, political, and literary change and debate at the turn of the nineteenth century with a particular emphasis on women writers. How are women's voices integral to debates about liberty and rights across the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries? Tackling numerous forms and genres, we will explore questions about aesthetic experience, gender, and the social and political engagement of the writer.


We will begin by addressing pre-Revolutionary eighteenth-century writing by women before assessing the lasting influence of Revolutionary ideals and frustrations and the fierce struggles for women's rights, abolition, and animal rights. Looking at neglected authors such as Leicester abolitionist and campaigner Susannah Watts as well as key texts by Edmund Burke and Mary Wollstonecraft, you will explore the exciting, vibrant, sometimes violent debates of this period. Using the latest research into women's writing and sociable networks of male and female writers, we will use a range of critical approaches to challenge traditional perceptions of gender and period boundaries.


In our weekly seminars, you will reflect on the historical and critical contexts of the set texts and engage in formal analysis. You'll actively participate in small-group discussions and make a presentation consisting of a close reading of a key text or an introduction to a critical approach.

By the end of the module, you'll be able to:

  • Demonstrate a sophisticated and wide-ranging set of analytical skills relating to questions of liberty and the social and political engagement of the writers studied on the module, based on an exploration of narrative technique, structure, style, and imagery in a range of texts and genres
  • Have a good understanding of the wider social and cultural contexts in which these writers worked, and of a range of critical and theoretical approaches to the period
  • Demonstrate familiarity with the major trends of Romantic criticism relating to women's writing from the nineteenth century to the present day, and to give a clear account of how critical approaches have developed and changed direction over that period


  • One 5,000-word essay