Associate Professor of English

4460, “Who is the Eighteenth-Century Woman?”, Spring 2021

Sketch of an unknown woman, c. eighteenth century


Who is the Eighteenth-Century Woman? And can we find her in the lives of those women who have entered the public record?

Assignment: Engage in a multi-phased biographical research project. Depending upon which prominent woman you are assigned, you might find yourself researching a writer, a scientist, a political figure, an artist, a poet, etc

Step 1: You are assigned a figure. I’ll do this by the third class day so if you’d like to make a specific request for a figure, you’ll need to send me an email by Wednesday, January 20th.

Step 2: Research materials due Friday, February 12th and can be in DRAFT form.

  • No more than 3-5 pages of your findings, with a bibliography indicating where you found your information.
    • For this assignment, I’d like you to start with the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. (See link below)
    • You must also use at least 1 other online source and (ideally) 1 other actual book from the Main Library. If you are unable to go to the library because of illness, please contact me.
    • A very strong project will have around 5 varied sources: only 1 biographical entry from online in addition to the OED resource; 1-2 secondary (critical sources); if you have an author, at least 1 primary source
      • Accompany the bibliographic reference of a library book with a photo of the shelf where you found it.
      • Look for portraits, art works, etc. If she was a painter, what did she paint? Are any of her works extant? If she was a writer, what were her most famous works? (You should also skim or read the work that most catches your eye). If she was prominent political figure, are there portraits or accounts of her in the historical record?
        • Don’t forget that the presentation is multi-media; you must have images; if there is a portrait of your figure, display it! If an artist, share her work. If there are no portraits or material artifacts, then find other powerful images that represent pertinent aspects of eighteenth-century culture.
      • At least one section of this draft must be dedicated to biographical information
      • At least one section should be dedicated to a close description and analysis of 1 or 2 works of art or action. (i.e. a poem; a political campaign; a statue or painting)
        • In other words, what is this? why is it important? what makes it of analytical and interpretive interest?
        • You need to clearly identify what you will be specifically looking at. If an excerpt, please share details about that excerpt with me: source, date, and either lines (if a poem) or page numbers (if a text). I may ask you to send me a pdf of the work or otherwise make it available to me so that I can assign it to the class.
      • Does your figure have a presence in popular culture? Is she represented in film or contemporary literature?
    • Submit your material electronically (i.e. Google Docs or by email). Must be in Times Roman, 12 font but can be in the form of paragraphs, detailed notes or outline. I must be able to interpret it, however.
  • Some of these women worked into the nineteenth century; for the purposes of this presentation please focus on their presence in late eighteenth-century culture.
  • It is possible that some of the writers listed below may end up on our syllabus at some point but they are not currently on the schedule.

Step 3: In-Class Presentation (rolling through the semester): Once I collect all of the research project write-ups, you’ll be assigned a day to present:

  • a 5 minute “flash” presentation your findings to the class.
  • You should do so in a way that brings multi-media affordances into class. You’ll have access to the classroom computer and projector. If necessary, you will be able to do your presentation via Zoom.
  • You may not go beyond 5 minutes in your classroom presentation but I encourage you to bring insights about your historical figure into classroom discussions throughout the semester. It is possible that we will be discussing material by your chosen author on the day that you present; it that case, you’ll probably have a quite a bit to say and your contributions are welcome.

Step 4:  For the final step of this project, you’ll turn in a revised version of your first draft and your notes for the presentation itself. The presentation should be in a digital form. DUE within two days of your presentation.

An example: Eliza Haywood (1693?-1756)

Where to begin:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Galileo Database, UGA Libraries). You’ll need to log-in if you are off campus.

Homepage of the UGA Libraries

Direct link to “Literature” databases on Galileo

Look at anthologies of women’s writing: you can find them in the library in sections: PR 111, PR 76, PR 129, etc. Find them by putting in search strings like “Eighteenth-Century British Women Writers” or “Anthologies of Women Writers” etc. etc. Some of our writers also published in the nineteenth century, so if your figure is born at the end of the century, you should search for “Nineteenth-Century British Women Writers” or “Romantic Women Writers” (or painters, or poets, or as the case may be).

Enter your figure’s name into the Google Books search engine; look for material in historic and archival documents, periodicals, older books. (Don’t forget that you can limit the search to 18th-century materials <Put the name of your figure in the Google Books search bar; when materials come up, click on <Settings> and then <Advanced Book Search>; go to publication date and enter date range, which should cover the time period that the figure/author/painter, etc. was active until about 25 years (or so) after her death). Not all results will be useful, but some will be.

You can also search for mention of your figure in more recent critical works, as well using the more conventional google search window.

Internet Archive

A host of English Museums: The National Portrait GalleryThe National GalleryThe British Library, and The British Museum (probably Jane Collier at NPG); 29 portraits of Duchess of DevonshireElizabeth Montagu

The Dread Wikipedia: I confess that sometimes this is a helpful site BUT it should never be the only place to look. It can be a very useful place to start but you want to make sure that the information is accurate. The other contemporary sources I’ve given you are academically accredited and therefore most appropriate for this assignment. If you do look at it, it belongs on the bibliography.

When grading this, I’ll be looking for enthusiastic archival energy, so while I’ve not “required” too many sources, you’ll surely want to go beyond 3 or 4, although you don’t want to get too carried away (say no more than 10). If you do get carried away, please put all of your findings in that bibliography.

Some of these figures will have less of a presence in the archive but be sure that you’re right about that. Dig deep to try to find them in the historical record.

  1. Elizabeth Montagu (1718-1800) / Grace Lane / February 18
  2. Catharine Macaulay (1731-1791) / Sydnee Banks / February 25
  3. Anna Letitia Barbauld (1743-1825) / Rebecca Moon / March 16
  4. Hannah More (1745-1833) / Michaela Wilkins / February 18
  5. Anne Damer (1749-1828) / Emily Burns / March 4
  6. Caroline Herschel (1750-1848) /Micayla Kane / March 18
  7. Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784) / Suzanne Godard / March 18
  8. Ann Yearsley (bap. 1753, d. 1806) / Jake Head / February 18
  9. Sarah Siddons (1755-1831) / Matthew Jackson / March 9
  10. Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806) / Haley Luther / March 9
  11. Mary Robinson (1756/?1758-1800) / Madison Dye / March 11
  12. Harriett Abrams (c. 1758-1821) / Taylor Morris / March 18
  13. Helen Maria Williams (1759-1827) / Hunter Green / March 30
  14. Maria Cosway (1760-1838) / Abigail Maschino / March 25
  15. Susanna Rowson (bap. 1762, d. 1824) / Savannah Thornton / March 11
  16. Dido Elizabeth Belle (1761?-1804) / Karla Nemanic / April 20
  17. Eliza Fenwick (1766?-1840) / Abby Yori / April 15
  18. Anne Batten Cristall (bap. 1769, d. 1848) / Nate Wood / April 15

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