University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

The Country House in English Women's Poetry 1650-1750: Genre, Power and Identity

Young, Sharon ORCID: (2015) The Country House in English Women's Poetry 1650-1750: Genre, Power and Identity. PhD thesis, University of Worcester.

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This thesis examines the depiction of the country estate in English women’s poetry, 1650-1750. The poems discussed belong to the country house genre, work with or adapt its conventions and tropes, or belong to what may be categorised as sub-genres of the country house poem. The country house estate was the power base of the early modern world, authorizing social status, validating political power and providing an economic dominance for the ruling elite. This thesis argues that the depiction of the country estate was especially pertinent for a range of female poets. Despite the suggestive scholarship on landscape and place and the emerging field of early modern women’s literary studies and an extensive body of critical work on the country house poem, there have been to date no substantial accounts of the role of the country estate in women’s verse of this period. In response, this thesis has three main aims. Firstly, to map out the contours of women’s country house poetry – taking full account of the chronological scope, thematic and formal diversity of the texts, and the social and geographic range of the poets using the genre. Secondly, to interrogate the formal and thematic characteristics of women’s country house poetry, looking at the appropriation and adaptation of the genre. Thirdly, to situate the selected poetry both within and against the extensive and formally published male-authored canon and the more general literary and historical contexts of the early modern period. Across these related strands of discussion, the study has two important implications for our understanding of late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century poetry: it adds to our knowledge of women’s poetic practices of the period and extends and complicates our understanding of the country house genre.
Each chapter highlights a particular engagement with the genre responding to a complex of historical contexts, literary trends and personal circumstance. Chapter one will explore the contexts which prompt the emergence of the country house poem and the shape and detail of the genre, 1600–1650. It also examines where the specific gendered contexts of women’s writing practices are relevant to the selection of texts. Chapter two focuses on the thematic and formal interplay in Katherine Austen’s manuscript miscellany ‘Book M’ and role the country house genre plays in exploring and negotiating women’s relationship to property. Chapter three shares many of the same historical and literary contexts but from a different religio-political standpoint and focuses on Lucy Hutchinson’s manuscript collection ‘Elegies’.
Chapter four examines the appropriation and re-positioning of the country house genre in the poetry of Anne Finch and Jane Barker, arguing that as the post-

Restoration period began, the motivation to explore the country house as a symbol of legitimate political power, a location and symbol of retirement and retreat and the site of financial and cultural investment did not wane, but was reworked by Finch and Barker to explore their political sympathies for the Stuart monarchy. Chapter five explores the use of the country house genre by poets associated with Whig political sympathies: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and Anne Ingram. Largely unaffected by socio-economic or political marginalisation, both Montagu and Ingram enter into a public, and politically inflected, debate on the importance of taste. Chapter six explores two writers, Mary Leapor and Mary Chandler, who belong to an emerging body of writers of mercantile or labouring class. The discussion will focus on Leapor’s ‘Crumble-Hall’ and Chandler’s A Description of Bath and the contexts of consumerism and tourism to which both poems respond.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information:

A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the University’s requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
A print copy of this PhD thesis is held on Level 4 at the Hive.

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: English poetry, country house poetry, country estate poetry, English women's poetry, female poets, Early modern period
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: College of Arts, Humanities and Education > School of Humanities
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Janet Davidson
Date Deposited: 21 Feb 2018 08:22
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2020 17:21

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