Date of Graduation
Doctor of Philosophy in English (PhD)
Second Committee Member
Eugenia Zuroski Jenkins
Third Committee Member
Emily Bernhard Jackson
This dissertation explores the intersection of sensibility, social identity, and literacy practices among representations of women readers in four late eighteenth-century British novels. Through an analysis of the authors' use of identity constructs which shaped and were shaped by reading practices, this study documents the rise of social identity formation as mutually constitutive with the history of reading. The first chapter reveals how Charlotte Lennox's The Female Quixote uses Arabella's follies as education for readers about the corresponding processes of reading their society and reading novels. The second chapter argues that Frances Burney's Evelina considers women's ability to read others as essential, but, in seeing literacy as a type of performance, rejects women who incorporate literate ways of knowing and thinking into their identity. In the third chapter, Maria Edgeworth's Belinda portrays the boundary between private and public selves for women as blurred, thereby suggesting that women readers must reconstitute their image of self as identity borderlands in order to make use of their reading skills and practices. The fourth chapter on Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey reveals the results of late eighteenth-century culture's increased emphasis on the uses of reading for social and personal identity-work: a self that functions as a nexus for various social identities rather than as a seat for private, interiorized consciousness. The final chapter argues for increased emphasis on the role social identity plays in the literacy identities and practices of twenty-first century students, whose perceived deficiencies in reading comprehension have provided a challenge for some reading teachers.
Hodges, Amy, "Performing Literacy: How Women Read the World in the Late Eighteenth-Century British Novel" (2012). Theses and Dissertations. 523.