I’ve been interested in the ways in which Evelina interacts with culture and functions in the public sphere, so that’s what I focused on here.
Dykstal, Timothy. “‘Evelina’ and the Culture Industry.” Criticism, vol. 37, no. 4 (1995), pp. 559–81.
Jürgen Habermas has posited that as the eighteenth-century middle class entered the public sphere and began to form their own opinions of art, they developed critical thinking skills that were eventually applied to politics and social issues. This is the framework in which Dykstal discusses Evelina’s relationship to culture. The author describes three benefits of art—moral instruction, enlightenment, and connoisseurship—and explores the degree to which Evelina (and eighteenth-century women more broadly) engage with them. Ultimately, he asserts that, with the notable exception of reading, art is reduced to spectacle in Evelina and the benefits proposed by Habermas are absent.
Park, Julie. “Pains and Pleasures of the Automaton: Frances Burney’s Mechanics of Coming Out.” Eighteenth-Century Studies, vol. 4, no. 3 (2006), pp. 23–49.
In her three novels, Frances Burney focuses on the time period between childhood and marriage, and Park examines the way in which she portrays the relationship between the private minds of her female characters and their public life. Park believes that the coming out process involves a “compulsive identification with the automaton” and explores Burney’s portrayal of her heroines through that lens. While she sees Burney as identifying her characters with the automaton, she does not simply parrot a cultural conceit. Instead, Park asserts, Burney uses the novels to explore the degree to which individual affect can exist within automatized femininity.
Straub, Kristina. “Fanny Burney’s ‘Evelina’ and the ‘Gulphs, Pits, and Precipices’ of Eighteenth-Century Female Life. The Eighteenth Century, vol. 2, no. 3 (1986), pp. 230–46.
Straub analyzes how Frances Burney portrays the power and social importance of women in Evelina. Specifically, she is interested in the differences between women during courtship—when they are most in the public sphere—and afterward, and in the tension between the ideals of romantic love and the powerlessness that often followed marriage in the eighteenth century. Through a close reading of the text, Straub asserts that though Evelina is subversive is some ways, it ultimately reinforces patriarchal notions of power: female power must acknowledge and defer to male power.