Heroines and Local Girls

Heroines and Local Girls
The Transnational Emergence of Women's Writing in the Long Eighteenth Century

Pamela L. Cheek

280 pages | 6 x 9 | 6 illus.
Cloth 2019 | ISBN 9780812251487 | $79.95s | Outside the Americas £69.00
Ebook editions are available from selected online vendors
A volume in the Haney Foundation Series
View table of contents and excerpt

"Pamela L. Cheek makes an extraordinarily important contribution not just to our understanding of women's writing but also to our thinking about the international circulation and reception of literary texts. Few scholars have anything like Cheek's range, and her ability to speak of the importance of translation without converting it into an easy alignment of one national dictionary with another marks her book with a combination of availability and precision. Heroines and Local Girls is indispensable reading for anyone interested in women's writing and how literature crosses national boundaries."—Frances Ferguson, University of Chicago
Over the course of the long eighteenth century, a network of some fifty women writers, working in French, English, Dutch, and German, staked out a lasting position in the European literary field. These writers were multilingual and lived for many years outside of their countries of origin, translated and borrowed from each others' works, attended literary circles and salons, and fashioned a transnational women's literature characterized by highly recognizable codes. Drawing on a literary geography of national types, women writers across Western Europe read, translated, wrote, and rewrote stories about exceptional young women, literary heroines who transcend the gendered destiny of their distinctive cultural and national contexts. These transcultural heroines struggle against the cultural constraints determining the sexualized fates of local girls.

In Heroines and Local Girls, Pamela L. Cheek explores the rise of women's writing as a distinct, transnational category in Britain and Europe between 1650 and 1810. Starting with an account of a remarkable tea party that brought together Frances Burney, Sophie von La Roche, and Marie Elisabeth de La Fite in conversation about Stéphanie de Genlis, she excavates a complex community of European and British women authors. In chapters that incorporate history, network theory, and feminist literary history, she examines the century-and-a-half literary lineage connecting Madame de Maintenon to Mary Wollstonecraft, including Charlotte Lennox and Françoise de Graffigny and their radical responses to sexual violence. Neither simply a reaction to, nor collusion with, patriarchal and national literary forms but, rather, both, women's writing offered an invitation to group membership through a literary project of self-transformation. In so doing, argues Cheek, women's writing was the first modern literary category to capitalize transnationally on the virtue of identity, anticipating the global literary marketplace's segmentation of affinity-based reading publics, and continuing to define women's writing to this day.

Pamela L. Cheek is Associate Professor of French at the University of New Mexico and author of Sexual Antipodes: Enlightenment Globalization and the Placing of Sex.

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