Final Portfolio Guidelines, Due 12-13 5pm

ENG 8354 Coursework Portfolio Assignment

1. Download, print out, and assemble in your portfolio the following items, in the following order; nonetheless, keep to a chronological order within each section:

  • Reading Question responses, exchanges, etc.
  • Annotated Bibliographies, including related posts
  • Any and all work posted online related to your final research project

You may also include the following:

  • any in-class writing or other materials generated over the semester in class
  • extra credit work or other stuff posted onto the blog (make sure you include your latest make-up posts from the blog)
  • any thoughts or reflections you might have as a result of doing this course or reading over your previous work

2.  Your reading journal for the term, scanned (anything too personal can be masked).

Once you have assembled these texts in some order (see below about handing in the hard copy), read over the semester’s total work here and answer the following questions in a brief (3-5 pp. essay, either single or double-spaced), which will serve as an overview of your work for the semester.  Once you’ve read over these materials, take a few hours to develop and write this essay.

3.  Final Self-Assessment Essay:

Take a few moments to reflect on what you’ve done and what you you’ve learned in this class.  Be specific and descriptive, but also be evaluative about your work products this term.  Where did your best work happen?  Where do you think your work could have been improved?  Be sure to answer the following questions in bold.

–I. Review your class-participation this term, including your Reading Questions and other kinds of online work posted.  Using specific examples taken from the blog or elsewhere, what did you learn this semester from the readings and research presented in class, in-class discussions, or yours or others’ contributions on the blog?  How did it affect (or not affect) the direction of your own research and writing?  How did you feel you contributed to others’ learning?  How did it contribute to your own learning and insights?

–II. Review your research and writing assignments (esp. annotated bibs, postings, and work for final research project).  Using specific examples, how much effort did you put into your assignments, and what have you learned about the research- and writing process?  Which aspects of the research- and writing-process did you find most challenging?  Which aspects did you find most interesting?  What might you use either in your own research or teaching?

–III. Review your reading journal and your own experience and understanding of reading and writing this term.  Using specific examples, what did you find to be some of the most important contexts for understanding the development of women’s fiction in this period?  Which projects of your classmates seemed most intriguing?  How do you see your own research project extending or revising existing work within these contexts?

–IV. [Open Question.  Pose it and answer it.  What have I missed?]

This essay is designed to help you reflect upon and retain a semester’s worth of work, and to help me evaluate your development as a researcher over this period.

4.  The completed portfolio should take the form of a single PDF (with journal scanned and including self-assessment essay) and emailed to me by 5 pm, Friday, 12/13/19. My grades will be due the following Monday, so there is very little leeway for late papers. Wrap it up and get it in. If you get stuck, let me know and I’ll see if I can help you get un-stuck.

Thanks for a great semester, and good luck!



Make-Up Blog Posts, Questions



[visualizations of the semester’s readings]

Since we’ve had a number of absences, flood days, and missed blog posts, rather than having people redo earlier work, I’ve decided that it would be more useful for you to pose or answer some reflective questions for the end of term. For every absence or missed blog post, please answer one of these, or post a question/response of your own. You may also answer a question posted by one of your classmates. Make these responses a few paragraphs in length, and try to anchor your responses in the texts at hand.

Here are a few suggestions of mine:

  • Name an aspect of the writers, genres, books, or themes of this semester that only became clear to you in the last few weeks of the semester;
  • Which of these books would you teach to undergraduates, in what kind of course would you teach it, and why?
  • Trace an important keyword from the semester (e.g., sentimental, passion, duty, pride, propriety, etc) across 2-3 novels.
  • Talk a bit about the theatrical, performative, or insincere characters in these books and their respective fates: why does this topic recur across the semester?
  • How are reading, writing, or taste discussed in one or two of the novels this semester?

You are welcome to create your own questions to answer, but include these in the response so that others can answer your question, as well.

Please post these as comments below, and don’t forget them when you assemble your portfolios.

Good luck!



Final Research Project Guidelines, Due 12/13 w/Portfolio

As discussed, here are the basic guidelines for the final research project:

  • The final essay topic should involve at least one writer and work on our syllabus, to be compared or contrasted with a second writer and work not on the syllabus, but which shares a common context with the first primary source (this can be historical or contemporary, as long as there is a common generic link).  Ask yourself: what insight is to be gained by juxtaposing these texts and works?  You may build on any of your previous work for the course, and are encouraged to use each others’ posts and suggestions etc. to hunt down sources.  Previous in-class conversations and others’ input are also fair game for developing your topic, but be sure to trace back your insights to a scholarly source wherever possible.
  • The length should run anywhere from 15-20 pages, enough to allow a substantial discussion of the authors and works at hand, and to permit an examination of the relevant biographical, historical, and critical contexts shared by these works.
  • The relevant scholarship on the individual authors, as well as the common contexts, will be not merely enumerated, but synthesized and related to the essay’s claims.  The citations, which should number at least 6-8, including scholarly biographies when relevant (ODNB etc), should meet scholarly expectations in terms of the relevance, accuracy, timeliness, etc of your sources on your primary sources and secondary-critical debates.
  • I remain available for drafts etc. Let me know if you get stuck.
  • This will be due 12/13 by 5 pm, emailed to me as a single PDF, along with a single PDF of the portfolio and self-assessment essay (guidelines to come).

For those of you still wondering about the problem of inserting yourself into the scholarly “conversation” regarding this era’s writing, this little excerpt from Graff and Birkenstein’s They-say/I-say  might be useful for us as we talk about formulating your topic and narrowing down the problem you want to set for yourself in your research.

If you have questions, put them on the blog.

Good luck,


Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (1814) & Final Projects

We’re going to read MP this Thursday and continue our discussions of the final project.

As you read MP, think about the differences in the depictions of the West Indies and the slave trade between the Woman of Colour (1808) and MP. What representational choices did Austen make that Anon. did differently? What implications would you draw from those choices?

We’ll also discuss the differences between this heroine and her story and the earlier fiction. Whatever other issues you find of interest please bring to class for us to discuss.

As for the final project, I’d like you each to put into the comments some kind of status report about the emerging topic. It could take a number of different forms:

  • a formal proposal, including authors and works, topic, and a few potential scholarly secondary sources;
  • a free-write about your topic, with the literary works you’re using and any potential scholarly sources;
  • a passage from one or more of your sources that you feel could be researched and elaborated into a more extended essay.

Please post those by Wednesday evening so we can discuss them in class on Thursday.

See you soon,


Austen, Manuscript Works/Juvenilia

This week, I’d like you to skim through the unpublished 3 volume Juvenilia (1786-93). Browse the volumes however you wish, but I recommend “Henry and Eliza,” “The Beautiful Cassandra,” “Love and Freindship” and “Catharine, or the Bower.”

As you read these, keep some notes in your reading journal about any parallels you see between these parodies and the novels of the previous weeks. We’ll share the parallels in class on Thursday. What elements of theme, plot, characterization, or setting do you see reworked and made visible by her satire?

This might also help you identify some of the genres and themes you might extend for your final project. We’ll do some brainstorming in class about your topics as well.

See you Thursday,





Frances Burney Response

Frances Burney Response 

My very sincere enjoyment of Frances Burney’s Evelina lead me to a question that is often tabled in creative writing classes as a matter of craft: what is a “tonal shift”, when can the reader bear it, in craft parlance “when is it earned” and when is it beyond the narrative pale? Expectations for tonal consistency were obviously not elucidated as rules by an institutional apparatus in the eighteenth century, and yet readers have always had expectations and critics have always responded to novels as successful or not with recourse to these. What to make of a novel that is both chipper and crass, sweet and disgusting, rude and mannered, and after all that, still successful?

Margaret Anne Doody is a highly influential eighteenth century scholar and an expert on Burney who edited an issue of Eighteenth Century Fiction on Evelina. I selected her essay  

“Beyond Evelina: The Individual Novel and the Community of Literature”(as my pre-2000 source) to shed light on the legacy of Burney scholarship as well as on new avenues for study of her oeuvre. I found that Burney had previously been deemed a minor writer in a major form worthy of studying for her role in the development of the novel, but dismissed as conventional and “light” by critics before feminist scholars made a case for the innovation the frame narrative of the novel represents and the socio-political critique it put forward in a patriarchal society. While this focus renewed interest in and respect for Burney as a novelist, it did not engage consideration of all the formal strategies Burney deploys in her writing, or even some of these strategies. Doody’s call to consider Burney’s satire in dialogue with Smollett’s and Fielding’s and Swift’s, and as informed by the socio-political context of the moment helped direct my critical reading further. 

Satire does seem to be the right word for it. After all, I want to understand the resilience of Evelina’s canonical status, the pleasures its comedy continues to bring readers and the weightiness of its plot in terms of the literary and socio-political context of its composition and the particular narrative structure it engendered which is deeply satirical, even if its satire remains almost unrecognizable as such by contemporary readers like myself. My first inkling that this book is a satire came from the very duality of its structure, Mr. Villars is opposed to Mme. Duval, the Mirvan’s are contrasted with the Braughton’s, and Lord Orville gallantly intercedes on Evelina’s behalf with every fop in the kingdom, these contrasts give an exemplary quality to Burney’s characterizations that allow them to be both instructive and ridiculous simultaneously. This is the hallmark of satire, however the tone of her satire still made me resist unreservedly identifying it as such. 

From a formal perspective, Julian Fong’s “Frances Burney as Satirist” proved to be most useful in providing answers to my inciting question about the very particular tone of Burney’s comedy.

He identifies her as a gloomy satirist whose view of female agency and of society’s ability to change is deeply pessimistic while her writing remains far from joyless. This description could not be more apt. Her purpose then is what puts her tonally at odds with other satirists like the sillier Fielding or angrier Smollett. Fong writes, “Her satiric purpose, as I understand it, is neither punitive nor reformative, but rather cautionary. She is not trying to chastise the vicious; she tries to warn her readers against the many dangers to which they may be vulnerable, particularly those that threaten young women” (939). This begs the question: if male writers are more readily accepted into the cannon how does this circumscribe today’s reader from recognizing formal strategies in women’s comedic writing. A literary historical knot a course like this one is indeed working to untangle.

Finally, Leanne Maunu’s “Quelling the French Threat in Frances Burney’s Evelina” was very enlightening in providing the historical context and familiarity with the cultural productions of the eighteenth century that made the very troubling characters of Mme Duval and Captain Mirvan legible to me as more than caricature, as studies of the nationalism that was on the rise and all its discontents. 

From it’s setting to its characters the reader can tell Evelina is a novel deeply concerned with publics, those that exist in the city of London and those that exist in the character’s mind, and Burney represents these publics as extremely fraught, her satire is indeed gloomy and serves as a caution to the reader, but not one devoid of pleasure. I’m glad these essays have helped me consider these questions and pointed to future sources and avenues for inquiry. 

Frances Burney Annotated Bibliography

Annotated Bibliography, Frances Burney’s Evelina

Doody, Margaret Anne. “Beyond Evelina: The Individual Novel and the Community of Literature”. Eighteenth-Century Fiction, Volume 3, Number 4, July 1991, pp. 359-372

This essay provides historical context about the reception history of Frances Burney’s novels and Evelina in particular, starting with her contemporaries and moving onto shifting trends in the scholarship around her work and how Evelina is taught in institutions. She describes contemporary critics of Burney’s and early scholarship on her work as failing to distinguish between the author and the “nice little rustic miss” she portrays in Evelina, as plagued by a sort of biographical fallacy that neglected Burney’s actual biography, for example the fact that Burney was 26 when she wrote Evelina and not in fact a teenager. Doody’s own biography of Frances Burney which revealed her problematic parentage is credited with a shift in the scholarship on Evelina which once dismissed the plot as conventional but now focuses the frame narrative of the novel and the means by which it’s heroine comes to claim her true name, this more recent scholarship reads the frame variously through formalist, feminist and psychoanalytic lenses. Doody is critical of this shift as she feels it represents a dismissal of Burney’s comic effects and satiric agenda, she attributes neglect of this generic concern to a critical disinterestedness in Burney’s contemporaries, namely: Eliza Haywood and Tobias Smollett. Her criticism of this focus on Evelina’s frame structure and its preoccupation with naming to the exclusion of its comedy evinces the critical establishment’s belief in the individual and a disavowal of the novel’s communal concerns, of Evelina’s relation to the Braughton’s, to Mme. Duval, to Captain Mirvan, and to the political and literary contexts of its composition.  

Fung, Julian. “Frances Burney as Satirist”. The Modern Language Review , Vol. 106, No. 4 (October 2011), pp. 937-953

Critic Julian Fung takes up the gauntlet laid down by Doody two decades later, in his essay he describes the formal character of Burney’s satire and attributes the reason it has not been studied to its inconsistency with the forms of “Augustan satire” that became dominant in the twentieth century, which is characterized by an attack on some object being carried out through humour. By comparing Burney’s writing to Fielding’s, Smollett’s and Swift’s he provides historical evidence that satire as it was understood in the eighteenth century was more various than it is now understood to be, satire could be light, it could grim, it could be angry. Fung provides a list of considerations for critics seeking to qualify the satirical effects of an author, such as: what is the protagonists role in relation to the satire, are the satirical characters dangerous, are they sympathetic, are they reformed, and can they be mollified by the protagonist. All of these considerations of plot effect the tone and style of the satire and the degree to which contemporary critics recognize it as such. For Fung, Evelina is a gloomy satire, “she warns her readers against a dangerous world and laments the impossibility of its reform by combining light, humorous ridicule with darker, more disturbing satire.” As the plot thickens lighter representations of course and rude satirical characters who do not threaten Evelina give way to grimmer representations of Evelina as a victim. This critics conclusions have implications that invoke the blind spot of eighteenth-century literary criticism of the novel, “Devotees of the ‘rise of the novel’ theory have been too focused on how Burney can be made to serve as a transitional novelist between Smollett and Austen to recognize her own considerable satiric accomplishments.”

Maunu, Leanne. “Quelling the French Threat in Frances Burney’s Evelina” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture. Volume 31, 2002, pp. 99-125.

(Because there is a limited generic criticism that engages socio-political questions of Evelina, and of the character of Mme. Duval specifically, I broadened my field of interest in Burney’s satire to include the French question which is a thematic explored satirically in the novel.)

In her lifetime, critic Leanne Maunu explains that Frances Burney was referred to as a “character-monger” by Dr. Johnson because of her skill at representing types, like the frenchified fop and the simple country girl. Maunu writes that Mme. Duval and Captain Mirvan are among these types but that they have not undergone the same kind of critical study as others (nor has their violent relationship), but that these types would have been familiar to and resonated with her contemporary readers as they drew on the nationalist rhetoric and anti-french propaganda of the day. Indeed Maunu’s socio-historical criticism describes the way the constant warfare between the two nations fomented a sense of Britishness as something distinct from and superior to Frenchness, a rival power who were perceived to threaten mores at home and colonies abroad. This political inspiration does not merely provide local colour in the novel but configures the plot— Evelina is unlike other marriage plot narratives of the period— seducer’s figure prominently but do not represent the main villain or central threat to the heroine, instead the villainess is a bawdy old French grandmother. For Maunu, Evelina’s grandmother is threatening because of her dual national identity. Indeed when Mme. Duval posits that a Grand Tour of Europe would make quite another person of Captain Mirvan, both he and the novel appear to be skeptical that becoming another person is a desirable thing. (The threat of not being who one seems to be permeates the novel as Evelina is seen with prostitutes by Orville at Vauxhall and wonders is he has misapprehended her character.) The relationship between Mme. Duval and Captain Mirvan is figured as a battle, because Mirvan is representative of the British state his violence is more or less sanctioned by the novel— even if its means are suspect its ends are deemed to be acceptable, at least in theory. But Mirvan does not merely want to beat Mme. Duval, he wants to humiliate her, deflate her pretensions to superiority and silence her. This humiliation is brutal, Mme Duval is kicked while she is down. The grimness of Burney’s satire is inconsistent with the tone of contemporary satire but it speaks to the different satiric registers she is capable of deploying in a single novel and the complexity of her project. For Maunu, “Burney uses humiliation as a strategy to induce us to laugh, but she uses the representation of the Captain to force us to catch that laughter in our throats.” It is the very grimness of her satire that allows the reader to question the righteousness of the nationalist project and Mirvan’s blind and brutal allegiance to it. 

Reflection on Annotated Bib

Upon the first read and with limited knowledge of the political and social context, I sensed, like most, that the story was much bigger than a single character or situation, and the preface also attempts to communicate this idea. However, having never read much on the socio-political works of the eighteenth-century considering women and their societal position, these three sources all help to frame Maria in the same circumstances as Wollstonecraft and other female contemporaries. Maria certainly is unique from other novels of the same time, as it is much more direct in its confrontation with social injustices, and even goes as far as mentioning Rousseau by name as the work Maria reads while in the asylum, which is what truly caught my attention. To what extent does the concept of motherhood in Maria leave the domestic sphere to occupy the political, and what is the significance of this overlap?

Field’s article, focused primarily on The Vindication of the Rights of Woman as a reaction to Enlightenment ideas on women and Rousseau’s justifications for their inferiority, speaks to the novel as a socio-political text under influence of the French Revolution. This brings into question Wollstonecraft’s argument for female equality and independence, as it appears counter to feminism, at least to modern feminism. However, whether Vindication is or is not a solid argument is not the point of my search. Rather, I thought to translate the ideas of Vindication over to Maria and assess if and how Maria serves as a literary vehicle for the same beliefs.

Literature also seems, based on the articles, a means in which maternity entered a larger cultural sphere outside the home. “The Maternal Ailment” touches on the developing literary discourse relating to such things as pregnancy and breastfeeding, along with highly influential and popular handbooks circulating the public with instructions on what constitutes a good pregnancy and a good mother. Obviously, this is helpful in the examination of changes in cultural approaches to maternity, but, I thought, the infiltration of motherhood and the injustices done to female subjects into fiction by Wollstonecraft and others, seems like a counter move to the cultural turn.

In examining Maria as both resistance and reformation literature with hefty and serious interests in political and cultural emphases, I began to wonder why other text we had read this semester (besides maybe Clarissa’s center on spiritual growth) seems to match this novel in weight. The early amatory fiction, for example, although claiming moral guidance as a main purpose, is nowhere near matching Maria’s treatment of the female condition. Perhaps this has something to do with the lack of (or just less) realism, whereas Maria at least has psychological realism? Either way, issues of maternity, while a cultural commodity in the popular cultural literature, takes on a new socio-political gravity in Maria and is now in discourse with texts outside a purely domestic concern. Of course, much more research is still necessary for this inquiry.

Reflections on the Annotated Bibliography

            When reading Clarissa, I became interested in the way the protagonist interacted with the public sphere, the way reputation and public perception influenced the actions and reactions of the characters in the novel, especially for those women operating in the space between childhood and marriage.  Though this initially caught my attention because it is thematically related to a creative project of mine, as the semester had progressed I’ve been attentive to the way this has been addressed in the other eighteenth-century novels we’ve read. All of the female protagonists’ actions in these books have been explicitly limited, and at times determined, by the “eye” of the larger society, and so for the annotated bibliography I sought out articles that addressed this facet of Frances Burney’s Evelina.

            The first article I read was Timothy Dykstal’s “‘Evelina’ and the Culture Industry,” which was a good starting place as it talked about a change in the middle class’s (and think the characters we’ve been concerned with so far would all fall into this social category) interaction with the public sphere in the eighteenth century, something that I was previously vaguely aware of but hadn’t connected with the books we’ve been reading in this class. While I found the framework of dividing the “benefits” of art into three categories to be somewhat reductive, it was instructive to read his analysis of how women in the eighteenth century were and were not allowed to engage critically with art. I’d been considering the ways in which behavior was proscribed but not thought. Dykstal also asserts that culture (with the exception of literature) in Evelina has been reduced to spectacle—e.g., balls and frivolous entertainments—and I would say that this pressure to see and be seen, in a certain light, of course, is one of the limitations placed on Evelina (and other women) as well as a critique of popular culture overall.

            Kristina Straub’s and Julie Parks’ essays are more tightly focused on the period of courtship, a time during which both authors assert that women have the most personal power and social importance. In essence, it is the time in which they most operate in the public sphere.Straub in particular is interested in the devaluation that follows this period, whether via marriage or old maidhood, and the tension between that truth and ideals of romantic love. She points out the way Burney embodies this in mature female characters; being so focused on Evelina herself, I confess that this is something I didn’t attend to on my own. Parks explores similar topics, but with an emphasis on the idea of the automaton (which I’m still wrapping my head around) and the chasm between a private sense of self-consciousness and being continually scrutinized in the public sphere.

            Everything about my final project still feels nebulous, but its direction might be something of a synthesis of aspects of these three articles. I’m interested in the idea of the coming out period as being one of unprecedented social clout but also one filled with peril and scrutiny. In particular, I’m thinking about the way this effects women’s private and social senses of self. In terms of texts, I’m undecided as so far it feels like there could be a fruitful analysis along these lines for all of the novels we’ve read so far. As far as a complementary text goes, half of me wants to find a contemporaneous novel that handles this tension in somewhat different manner, though I’m also interested in the idea of looking at the same topic in a later piece of literature. Suggestions/thoughts welcome!

Annie’s Reflection

My main thoughts after reading three sources about the growing dominance of realism in the 18th century are that these sources can be used to deconstruct the idea of the realism mode being the most expert at describing the “real.” McKeon points out squabbling of the time about what form was the most realistic, and that the novel form that developed out of these squabbles wasn’t just one easily classifiable type, but a series of competing forms that influenced each other in their race to become more realistic. The competition he outlines—Fielding criticizing someone who was criticizing someone else—is to me a sign that no one form by itself is ever going to be perfect at expressing the “real,” not to mention a sign that there’s no universal understanding of exactly the “real” is.

Ross and Carnell stir similar thoughts because both of their works expose possible motivations behind the rise of the realism mode—motivations that were other than simply wanting to express what is most real; much traditional scholarship and definitions of realism, Ross argues, suspiciously fall along lines that remove women from the equation, and Carnell argues similarly that “those writers handed down to us as serious, ‘realistic’ novelists have frequently been either Whig or anti-Jacobite Tory” (9-10).

Of course, my task now is to take these ideas and connect them somehow to one of the novels we have read for class, and I am hoping that Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey might help me do that, since its content deals at least somewhat with the way that romance novels of the day influence the heroine.

Other ways I could see narrowing this topic would be to compare Richardson’s Clarissa with an 18th century romance we did not read for class (but one that is similar to the style of Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina or Mary Davys’ Coquet) and examine the romance for the ways that it achieves a kind of poetic truth even if it does not achieve the kind of literally real experience that Clarissa conveys. Or, I could examine the romance for elements of the real that both Ross and Bowers argue they contain, while also examining Clarissa for elements of romance that Ross argues some of the realist novels—despite their authors criticizing the romance—also contain.

I question myself, however, even as I write these things, because this exploration is starting to sound somewhat like a witch hunt—I’m not sure what’s at stake that’s really valuable, in other words. Perhaps I have somewhat of a chip on my shoulder for the ways in which fiction workshops—in my experience—have more often tended to emphasize the telling of literal truth over the telling of poetic truth, and maybe there is a part of me that wants to reclaim the value of poetic truth? I think of an essay by Tim O’Brien called “Telling Tales,” in which he writes that while the questions of verisimilitude we frequently bring to stories and novel excerpts in fiction workshops are important, the problem he often sees with fiction in progress is not that it’s unrealistic, but that it’s boring. His essay makes me think, simply, that those of us who write in the realist tradition (myself included), can get too hung up on trying to present something that feels realistic instead of something that feels moving, important, poetically resonant somehow. Why do so many of us so highly value a work feeling realistic and believable over a work achieving these other—I would argue equally valuable—aspects?