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Women Writers and Old Age in Great Britain, 1750–1850

Devoney Looser

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This groundbreaking study explores the later lives and late-life writings of more than two dozen British women authors active during the long eighteenth century.

Drawing on biographical materials, literary texts, and reception histories, Devoney Looser finds that far from fading into moribund old age, female literary greats such as Anna Letitia Barbauld, Frances Burney, Maria Edgeworth, Catharine Macaulay, Hester Lynch Piozzi, and Jane Porter toiled for decades after they achieved acclaim—despite seemingly concerted attempts by literary gatekeepers to marginalize their later contributions.

Thoug…

This groundbreaking study explores the later lives and late-life writings of more than two dozen British women authors active during the long eighteenth century.

Drawing on biographical materials, literary texts, and reception histories, Devoney Looser finds that far from fading into moribund old age, female literary greats such as Anna Letitia Barbauld, Frances Burney, Maria Edgeworth, Catharine Macaulay, Hester Lynch Piozzi, and Jane Porter toiled for decades after they achieved acclaim—despite seemingly concerted attempts by literary gatekeepers to marginalize their later contributions.

Though these remarkable women wrote and published well into old age, Looser sees in their late careers the necessity of choosing among several different paths. These included receding into the background as authors of "classics," adapting to grandmotherly standards of behavior, attempting to reshape masculinized conceptions of aged wisdom, or trying to create entirely new categories for older women writers. In assessing how these writers affected and were affected by the culture in which they lived, and in examining their varied reactions to the prospect of aging, Looser constructs careful portraits of each of her subjects and explains why many turned toward retrospection in their later works.

In illuminating the powerful and often poorly recognized legacy of the British women writers who spurred a marketplace revolution in their earlier years only to find unanticipated barriers to acceptance in later life, Looser opens up new scholarly territory in the burgeoning field of feminist age studies.

Reviews

Reviews

Compelling and interesting... Like a latter-day Isaac D'Israeli, Looser explores many byways of 18th- and early-19th century authorship and publication. Accordingly, specialists in those periods will find here a trove of useful, thought-provoking historical anecdote.

So meticulously researched and her prose so pleasantly lucid and unassuming... Looser crafts a convincing argument for the reexamination of women writers like Frances Burney, Maria Edgeworth, Jane Porter, and Anna Letitia Barbauld, paying closer attention to their later lives and works.

Engaging and clearly written, Looser’s book makes a significant contribution to our understanding of what it meant to be an elderly female writer in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries while also identifying important considerations of fact and methodology often overlooked without the perspective of age studies.

The book's lively introduction offers plenty of promise. Looser conveys considerable enthusiasm about her subject and the impressive archival research she conducted for Women Writers and Old Age. Throughout the six chapters, Looser maintains a lucid and engaging style that many contemporary scholars might well emulate.

Devoney Looser is one of the best at bringing together biographical evidence, sophisticated theory, and literary sensibility.

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Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
252
ISBN
9780801887055
Illustration Description
2 halftones
Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction: Women Writers and Old Age, 1750-1850
1. Past the Period of Choosing to Write a "Love-tale"? Frances Burney's and Maria Edgeworth's Late Fiction
2. Catharine Macaulay's Waning

Preface
Introduction: Women Writers and Old Age, 1750-1850
1. Past the Period of Choosing to Write a "Love-tale"? Frances Burney's and Maria Edgeworth's Late Fiction
2. Catharine Macaulay's Waning Laurels
3. What Is Old in Jane Austen?
4. Hester Lynch Piozzi, Antiquity of Bath
5. "One generation passeth away, and another cometh": Anna Letitia Barbauld's Late Literary Work
6. Jane Porter and the Old Woman Writer's Quest for Financial Independence
Conclusion: "Old women now-a-days are not much thought of; out of sight out of mind with them, now-a-days"
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Devoney Looser

Devoney Looser is a professor of English at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She is the editor of Jane Austen and Discourses of Feminism and coeditor (with E. Ann Kaplan) of Generations: Academic Feminists in Dialogue.
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