Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Diane L. Hoeveler
This study investigates how Eliza Haywood addressed ideological conflicts about gender produced by modernization in early eighteenth-century England. Expanding Michael McKeon's theory of the novel to include "questions of gender," I address a wide sample of novels in order to show how Haywood's writing developed during her long career. Her first preoccupation was the sexual double standard that defined "fallen women" as society's exiles. Influenced by the "she-tragedy" of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, Haywood wrote novels that elicited pity for fallen women and searched for reasons to explain their condition. Haywood's writing became overtly political with her first secret history, Memoirs of a Certain Island, Adjacent to the Kingdom of Utopia (1725-6). Conceived as an imitation of an earlier political fiction, this novel figures the South Sea Bubble of 1720 as an organizing metaphor for the corruption of English government and society. Haywood uses amatory fiction as allegory to show that in public and in private life, worthy persons lost their places to ambitious social climbers as the nation's institutions were made to serve the greed of a minority of self-interested individuals. Haywood's appreciation of the connections between public life and the private subjugation of women is demonstrated in the novels she writes later that expose how men benefit and women are exploited by economic and legal structures that render women powerless. Although Haywood's later period of writing (1740-1756) has previously been characterized as a shift towards more conservative views, I argue that The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless (1751) is in fact Haywood's most politically radical work. She is the first English novelist to portray an abusive marriage and an attempted legal separation, and in her analysis of a husband's legal prerogatives, Haywood shows that women share common political interests because of their gender.
Available for download on Sunday, May 25, 2014