'The offspring of her first guilty connection': Austen's Fallen Women & Austen's Foremothers'

  • Talks
Event information
Location: Petersfield Museum, St Peter's Road, Hampshire, Petersfield, GU32 3HU
Start date: 15/06/2017
End date: 15/06/2017
Start time: 19:00
End time: 20:00
Price: £5.00 (£4.00 for Petersfield Museum Members)
Contact: Rosalind Norrell
Telephone: 01730 262601

At the heart of Austen’s first novel, Sense and Sensibility (1811), lies the tragic story of two Elizas: the first, an heiress forced into a loveless and abusive marriage, turns adulteress and bears an illegitimate child before dying in a sponging house. The second, her child, is seduced by the novel’s philandering anti-hero, Willoughby, and also bears a child out of wedlock. Whilst these women’s stories have captured imaginations in modern spinoffs and sequels, they continue to receive relatively scant attention from scholars, particularly in terms of what they tell us about Austen’s literary influences. In this talk, Dr Kim Simpson, Postdoctoral Fellow at Chawton House Library, reads the cyclical Eliza story as a reworking of earlier seduction narratives inherited from writers such as Eliza Haywood. As well as introducing some of Austen’s lesser-known predecessors, this talk will consider Austen’s treatment of the fallen woman, uncovering a darker eighteenth-century world that Austen’s fiction at once contains and denies: a world of adultery, disease, and ostracism, but also a world of female friendships, and a potential source of female power.

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