The Social Responsibilities of the Novelist: A Late Eighteenth-Century Model
Sones-Marceau, Marion (2011-04), The Social Responsibilities of the Novelist: A Late Eighteenth-Century Model, Questioning the Social Role of the Writer, 2011-04, Paris, France
TypeCommunication / Conférence
Conference titleQuestioning the Social Role of the Writer
Journal nameCahiers du CICLaS
CICLaS (Université Paris-Dauphine)
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Abstract (EN)From its beginning in the first half of the 18th century, the novel has been an important way of influencing the culture of its day. The birth (and then evolution) of this literary genre in England was closely linked to transformations in political life, modifications of economic and social structures, and changes of mentalities triggered by the Glorious Revolution in 1688. As novels became evermore popular so their authors became better and better known, some reaching celebrity status. Society then began to examine not just the characters and the plots of the novel to gain education, inspiration and social change, but also the personalities and lives of the novelists themselves. In this paper I go back to almost the very start of this two-pronged process by examining both the lives and works of two sisters, Sophia and Harriet Lee. The Lee sisters were leading lights in the innovation of novels for women, who had been left out of the literary loop. The landmark and best- selling novels had been written mainly by male authors (eg. Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding and Tobias Smollett) in a realistic vein and in a style which did not really take account of women’s aspirations and desires. The Lees were part of the new generation of women who took over this mantle. Their work accommodated a burgeoning middle class female readership whilst through their lifestyle they served as contemporary role models. Using the medium of the novel the sisters constructed an ambiance with their female readership and an identification and inspiration with their created heroines through a judicious mix of historical, sentimental and gothic tradition. For themselves, the Lees achieved a place in society and were able to assist in the liberation of the role of women to a more prominent and acceptable position, one of being potentially successful figures of commercialism.
Subjects / KeywordsLittérature et société
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