Divided Fictions

Divided Fictions: Fanny Burney and Feminine Strategy

Copyright Date: 1987
Edition: 1
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Divided Fictions
    Book Description:

    Today Fanny Burney's venture into authorship would not be questionable. She was, after all, a daughter of a celebrated musician, and the Burney family was know to the circle of Samuel Johnson and Hester Thrale. Yet as Kristina Straub ably shows, the public recognition which followed the publication of her first novel placed Fanny Burney in a situation of disturbing ambiguity. Did she become famous or notorious? Was she a prodigy or a freak? In this study of Burney, Straub not only describes and analyzes the disturbing transition of a writer's self-awareness as a woman and a literary artist from private to public terms, but also reveals in Burney's works a hitherto unacknowledged complexity."

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4972-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. ONE Critical Methods and Historical Contexts
    (pp. 1-22)

    Fanny Burney’sEvelinagives us, on one hand, a distinctly interior view of eighteenth-century female life that seems to suggest the autonomy of female consciousness—Evelina telling Mr. Villars how strange it is to have her hair dressed, laughing her head off at a fop at her first ball—Cinderella demystified, as Anthea Zeman points out, transformed from feminine object to subjective consciousness. On the other hand, as Patricia Meyer Spacks makes clear, Burney’s novel is also a text about female fear, self-doubt, and automatic deference to masculine authority—female subjectivity as almost entirely and, indeed, morbidly reactive to male...

  5. TWO EVELINA: Gulphs, Pits, and Precipices
    (pp. 23-52)

    Fanny Burney published her first novel,Evelina; or, the History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World,when she was twenty-six years old and a spinster. Still young enough to be treated as a “young lady” by her friend and mentor Samuel Johnson, Burney was nonetheless on the brink. of becoming an “old maid,” one of the most problematic and vulnerable roles for a woman in the eighteenth century, in part because of its marginal economic status, but also because female maturity, especially outside of marriage, compromised women’s powers of self-assertion and their claims to public esteem. “Young ladies,”...

  6. THREE EVELINA: Marriage as the Dangerous Die
    (pp. 53-77)

    If the vista of a middle-class young woman’s future was composed, in Burney’s day, of “gulphs, pits, and precipices,” a happy marriage, according to the conventions of sentimental fiction, might well be expected to take her to another country, a timeless realm in which her problematic maturity could be subsumed into the promise of happy-ever-after. And this displacement of loss by gain, powerlessness by security, is, of course, the psychic and social change dramatically expressed by Evelina’s marriage and her removal to Berry Hill at the end of the novel, the retreat from the world to a sort of domestic...

  7. FOUR EVELINA: Trivial Pursuits
    (pp. 78-108)

    Consciousness that the human mind and body are shaped by what they do, not always with pleasant results, informs social and economic theory since the eighteenth century, and although such theory tends to focus on men, especially of the working class, feminist social theorists, beginning with Mary Astell, have pointed out the particular dangers that this truism suggests about the process of female self-identification. If Marx’s industrial-age worker is in danger of fulfilling the fable of Menenius Agrippain—in which one part of man becomes the whole through repeated selective usage of the body—then women are in danger of...

  8. FIVE CECILIA: Love and Work
    (pp. 109-151)

    Cecilia(1782) was Burney’s follow-up afterEvelina’s success brought her out of anonymity and into the public notice of literary London. Besides bringing her public attention, the acclaim given to Burney’s first novel also, ironically, brought her under the controlling influence of family and friends she wished to please: her father, Charles Burney, her longtime friend and mentor, Samuel Crisp, her new mentor, Samuel Johnson, and Hester Thrale, with whom she spent much of her time after the authorship ofEvelinawas discovered. While writingEvelinahad been a private, unsupervised activity,Ceciliawas created in a relatively public context,...

  9. SIX The Receptive Reader and Other Necessary Fictions
    (pp. 152-181)

    When Fanny Burney wroteEvelina; or, the History if a Young Lady’s Entrance into the Worldin the mid-1770s, she was by no means entering into literary territory that was untouched by the female pen; scores of women had written and published novels prior toEvelina,giving Burney a clear, if not entirely unsullied precedent for going into print. (Some, indeed many, women novelists of the first half of the eighteenth century would not have been considered nice to know” by the middle-class, respectable Burney.) This precedent enabled the act of writing without, however, making clear the authority by which...

  10. SEVEN CAMILLA and THE WANDERER: Male Authority and Impotence
    (pp. 182-220)

    Fanny Burney’s experience with authorship brought her, I have argued, to a heightened awareness of the contradictions implicit in her ideological position as woman and as writer in the late eighteenth century. In plotting the course of Burney’s progress toward this awareness, I have focused almost exclusively on her first two novels as documents that mark the threshold of Burney’s writerly entrance into the world of literature and public authority. In doing so, I have adhered to my study of the emergent development of a woman’s writerly self-consciousness, but I have also left room for some misunderstandings of my own...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 221-232)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 233-237)