By Laura L. Runge
Through the eighteenth century British critics believed that masculine values represented the easiest literature whereas female phrases signified less significant works or authors. Laura Runge argues that an knowing of the language of eighteenth-century feedback calls for cautious research of the gendered language of the period. Her exploration of why, for instance, the heroic and the elegant have been noticeable as masculine modes whereas the radical was once seen as a female style addresses concerns vital to eighteenth-century experiences which are nonetheless appropriate at the present time.
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Extra info for Gender and Language in British Literary Criticism, 1660-1790
In revisioning this history, I am paying particular attention to the dialogue between critical values and cultural expressions of gender that has been unnoticed or distorted in previous scholarship. And while this study attempts to understand eighteenth-century texts in the terms of their historical production, the vantage point is necessarily shaped by late twentieth-century conceptions, particularly by the deconstruction of patriarchal systems of gender differentiation. Furthermore, the purpose of this study is to resignify the meaning of certain elements of eighteenth-century literary discourse for today's students.
Theophilus Cibber in his Lives ofthe Poets (1753) quotes Dryden's letter to Elizabeth Thomas in which he represents her poems as the exception to feminine standards: "They were I thought too good to be a woman's; some of my friends to whom I read them, were of the same opinion. It is not very gallant I must confess to say this of the fair sex; but, most certain it is, they generally write with more softness than 66 67 J o h n D r y d e n , John Dryden: Of Dramatic Poesy and Other Critical Essays, ed.
We have traditionally viewed the period as most clearly invested in these masculine interests, but the heroic values of the Restoration based on male extremes of valor and virtue are actually tempered by feminine lyricism. The chapter on fiction examines the paradox that though the new genre of the novel is overtly feminized, canonical representation suggests that only men write good novels. Through examination of the gendered strategies in the criticism of earlyfiction,I argue that the feminized novel is not granted the status of great literature, in part because it is controlled or denigrated by male authority.