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Heroines and 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 over the long eighteenth century, characterized by stories about heroines who transcend their gendered destiny.

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

Pamela L. Cheek

2019 | 280 pages | Cloth $79.95
Literature / Women's Studies/Gender Studies
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Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Networks of Women Writers Circa 1785-87
Chapter 2. Two Quarrels
Chapter 3. Ravishing and Romance Language
Chapter 4. The Repertoire of the School for Girls
Chapter 5. Heroines and Local Girls
Chapter 6. Heroines in the World

Works Cited

Excerpt [uncorrected, not for citation]


Heroines and Local Girls asks a technical question, an affective question, and a historical question. Where does something that many readers identify as "women's writing" fit within world literature? What procedures do texts that count as women's writing follow to procure a sense of attachment among readers? And how did the placement of women's writing in the world literary field build on these procedures to produce a transnational concept of women's identity? The textual devices invented by women writers in the long eighteenth century fostered group affinity across borders of social rank and nation in ways that proved to be enduring and adaptive. Perhaps the most influential of these devices was the focus on the differences in perception between the powerless and the powerful and, commensurately, on the stakes of resisting a hegemonic forcing or overwriting of perception. The transnational category now known as women's writing arose from the possibility of capitalizing on a new supranational market sector targeting women readers. It solidified with the invention of narrative means for affirming women's versions of women's stories, particularly in the depiction of differential perceptions of sexual violence and of the gender roles associated with European cultures.

Multiple waves of feminism have rightly pointed to the problems with thinking about women as a transnational and unified cadre. Such critiques identify how women's writing may obscure specific intersectional experiences connected to race, class, sexuality, culture, geography, and gender. Yet less investigation has been devoted to how and why the category of women's writing came to be so adept at surviving and multiplying. Why, despite its significant political limitations, has it been able to grow and to absorb different interests as well as to serve as an incubator for new sectors of writing that provide a space of attachment for new identities, including intersectional ones? What might be called an emergent phenomenon of European women writing in the long eighteenth century provides some answers to this question.

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