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Consensual Fictions

Consensual Fictions: Women, Liberalism, and the English Novel

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 290
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  • Book Info
    Consensual Fictions
    Book Description:

    InConsensual Fictions, Wendy S. Jones focuses on the English novel of the period to explore the relationship between married love, classic liberal thought, and novelistic form.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2772-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-23)

    This clever anecdote from an early conduct book,The English Gentlewoman, drawne out to the full Body(1641), testifies to the rise of the marriage for love, the expectation that children — even daughters — will have a say in choosing their spouses and will not be forced into repugnant matches. At the same time, it dramatizes the conflicts in authority engendered by this shift in attitude from an earlier time, when arranged marriages were the norm among the propertied classes. It is therefore as much a story about the clash between emergent and residual beliefs as it is the story of...

  5. 1 Married Love and Its Consequences
    (pp. 24-67)

    The Restoration and eighteenth century witnessed the emergence of a forceful ethical imperative to marry for love.¹ This ideal originated within the middle ranks of society, a group that increasingly identified themselves as the guardians of virtue. Their advocacy of married love challenged an older aristocratic paradigm, the marriage of interest, in which marriage was arranged by parents, kin, and family friends, in order to further the social, political, and economic ambitions of a family. This is not to claim that an ideal of married love sprang full-blown in the early modern period. Precedents in Western civilization can be found...

  6. 2 Virtuous Libertines and Liberated Virgins: Sir Charles Grandison
    (pp. 68-100)

    Samuel Richardson’sSir Charles Grandisonis structured around an event that seems to defy both the novel’s insistent and pervasive moralistic tone and its characterization of Sir Charles as a moral paragon: Sir Charles is in love with two women at the same time. Love for more than one woman is precisely the behaviour that distinguishes the rake, the kind of man Sir Charles himself excoriates. How can the exemplar of English integrity, who is not merely another worthy hero but a ‘vision of Christ as a realistic eighteenth-century gentleman,’¹ be involved in what he himself rightly defines as a...

  7. 3 ‘No small part of a woman’s portion’: Love, Duty, and Society in Persuasion
    (pp. 101-128)

    Emma Thompson’s brilliant adaptation ofSense and Sensibilityis one of the most authentic of the many film versions of Austen’s novels made in the 1990s. Thompson consistently follows Austen’s ordering of events and reproduces her wording. Costumes and settings are historically accurate. Camera work conveys Austen’s sense of etiquette for contemporary viewers: long shots, which introduce the characters’ social calls, function as a metaphor of the formality and distance that govern social relationships in the eighteenth century. Yet despite Thompson’s dedication to conveying the look and spirit of her original, her treatment of the novel’s primary subject, the representation...

  8. 4 Feminism and Contract Theory in He Knew He Was Right
    (pp. 129-154)

    Anthony Trollope wroteHe Knew He Was Rightfrom November 1867 to June 1868, years during which a bill to grant property rights to married women under common law was being fiercely debated in both Parliament and the press. The first Married Women’s Property Act was passed in 1870. As an editor and writer for popular periodicals, as well as a politician manqué who stood for Parliament in November 1868, Trollope was certain to have been familiar with arguments both for and against this bill.He Knew He Was Right, an exploration of male authority and women’s rights within marriage...

  9. 5 Margaret Oliphant’s Women Who Want Too Much
    (pp. 155-181)

    Despite the joyful celebration of marriage here articulated, a description, surely, of Mill’s own relationship with Harriet Taylor,The Subjection of Women(1869) laments the failure of many couples to attain this blissful union. One of the central insights ofThe Subjectionis that inequality between men and women distorts relationships between the sexes. Because of inequitable laws, institutions, and customs, men fail to respect women adequately; this precludes the kind of loving and reciprocal marriage that Mill eulogizes in this passage, and which was an ideal for both feminists and their opponents. Mill’s insight, a fundamental premise for other...

  10. 6 Liberalism and Feminism: The End of the Line
    (pp. 182-188)

    I conclude with Oliphant because she represents a founding moment in the critique of liberal feminism with which we are so familiar today; Oliphant rejects the belief that married love holds the promise – or the threat – of equity for women in their relationships with men. I have argued throughout this study that this belief came about as changes in the ideology of marriage contributed to an emergent feminism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Implicit in the companionate ideal was an extension of the principles of liberal theory to women as well as men, above all the individual’s right to...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 189-234)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 235-250)
  13. Index
    (pp. 251-255)