Archipelagic literary history
eighteenth-century poetry from Ireland, scotland and wales
Since the mid-1980s, the study of eighteenth-century women writers has transformed the landscape of literary studies. Feminist literary history has seemingly reached a moment of maturity where it can reflect upon its own practice and move beyond the initial stages of recovery and/or discovery of writers and texts. In addition, the emphasis on the novel as the key genre for demonstrating women's engagement in literary culture has shifted to include a range of important scholarship on a wide variety of genres and forms. Nevertheless, it remains the case that studies of eighteenth-century women's writing do not often take into account the significance of geographical location, national identity and linguistic choice for women's writing practice and production. British women's literary history in particular is mostly framed by an Anglo-centric context where "Britain" is often used as a synonym for "England". In consequence, writers from Ireland, Scotland and especially Wales are either absorbed by an often unconscious Anglo-British bias or treated separately with regard to their national linguistic and literary traditions. The development of "archipelagic" or "four nations' criticism has started to devolve attention to locations and writers previously deemed geographically and significantly marginal.1 Nevertheless, in a reflection of the dominance of the novel in earlier studies of women's literary history, "four nations' criticism has similarly focused on fiction (especially the historical or national tale), as the key genre for uncovering national allegiance in the eighteenth century and Romantic period.2 However, the British novel was of course resolutely Anglophone in the eighteenth century. Therefore, women who composed in the Celtic languages of Britain and Ireland (Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Welsh) are by definition excluded from discussion as their primary productions were poetic.
Prescott, S. (2016)., Archipelagic literary history: eighteenth-century poetry from Ireland, scotland and wales, in J. Batchelor & G. Dow (eds.), Women's writing, 1660-1830, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 179-201.
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