Women, Gender, and the Production of Knowledge 1702-1870

Term: Fall 2008

Subject Code: GHIS

Course Number: 5527

This course examines the ambitions and achievements of a cohort of women intellectuals who, prominent in their own time but now largely forgotten, produced new knowledge that contributed to modern understanding. We concentrate on British women and their complex cultural inheritance, with reference to female scholars in adjacent cultures. Our chronological reach, 1702�1870, begins with the reign of Queen Anne and ends in the middle of Victoria�s rule when women were first admitted to British universities and Parliament passed the groundbreaking Married Women� s Property Acts (1870 and 1882). We consider the relation between gender and genre in light of emerging academic discourses, the explosion of Science, and the expansion of print culture. We look at the pioneering efforts of women in the republic of letters: Anna Jameson, the first English female art critic; Mary Wollstonecraft, self-taught editor of the radical Annual Review; Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, professional life-writer of Vitoria Colonna, Manon Roland, and Germaine de Stael in Lives of the Most Eminent Literary and Scientific Men of Italy, Spain and Portugal and French Lives; and women�s invention of Shakespeare studies to forge new perspectives on national culture. We study scientific advances and popularizations by Priscilla Wakefield in botany, Jane Marcet in chemistry, and Ada Byron Lovelace in early computer technology; and polymaths Harriet Martineau and Mary Sommerville. We investigate new perspectives on the interactions of male thinkers with their female contemporaries, including the collaborative relationships of Elisabeth of Bohemia and Ren� Descartes; Caroline Herschel and her brother William; and Priscilla Wakefield and Carl Linnaeus. We contemplate the particular struggles of Catherine Macaulay, Mary Hays, Lucy Aikin, and Agnes and Elizabeth Strickland to be recognized as history-writers. We investigate women�s proposals for female education in light of their own experiences as autodidacts and amid pervasive social anxiety about learned women.

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