By Elizabeth Eger (auth.)

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Extra resources for Bluestockings: Women of Reason from Enlightenment to Romanticism

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James Barry’s work as a writer and painter conveyed the sense in which the figures of women were inextricably involved in a wider quest to create and define a public sense of national culture. 5 Barry’s concern to find a justification for his art can be seen in the context of an emerging discourse surrounding the public purpose and commercial utility of British culture. His letter is both a specific complaint and a more general reflection on the place of art in society; it was also followed by his expulsion in 1799 from the Royal Academy.

30 Samuel’s lecture praised the potential of visual art to transcend language barriers in a commercial and moral project of expansion beyond the borders of England. ’32 The silks worn by Samuel’s nine muses, while classical in inspiration, are perhaps Derby patterns. 33 Samuel’s manifesto presented the development of the fine arts as the privileged distinction of a civilised society. ’34 In such a society, the social and cultural position of women was an important indicator of the level of civilisation acquired.

Both have stressed that the new cultural power of women beginning in the mid-eighteenth century was part of the consolidation of middle-class hegemony. Although women writers gained acceptance and prestige, becoming the spokeswomen for cultural change, these critics argue that they did so only by constructing a discourse that ‘reformed’ women by locking them into a ‘disciplinary’ domestic sphere. ’47 While Gallagher is perhaps over-simplifying the arguments of Spencer and Armstrong, whose work has changed the map of fiction in this period, there is a widespread tendency to classify successful women writers as belonging to a domestic sphere and advocating a correspondingly conventional morality.

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