A Race Of Female Patriots: Women and Public Spirit on the British Stage, 1688–1745

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Lexington Books, Dec 23, 2011 - Drama - 316 pages
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A Race of Female Patriots argues that public-spirited women proliferated on the eighteenth-century British stage to catalyze an affective experience of political belonging, as dramatists imagined new forms of affiliation, allegiance, and loyalty suitable to the new British constitution established bythe Glorious Revolution of 1688. Brett D. Wilson examines both staples of the repertory (The Fair Penitent, Jane Shore) and lesser-known plays (Liberty Asserted, The Revolution of Sweden, Edward and Eleonora) to define the parameters of a prevalent yet under-examined dramatic mode: “civic” dramas that use scenes of political strife and private distress to stage the fashioning of communities around women. Onstage, women act to benefit the public—crucially, Wilson argues, by infusing the commonwealth with sentimental ardor: public spirit. Playwrights like Nicholas Rowe, Catharine Trotter, John Dennis, and James Thomson make the female-centered unions they imagine into synecdoches for a British nation transformed from turmoil to harmony. Restoring to view key neglected texts that portray women who feel deeply as agents of inclusion and icons of civic virtue, A Race of Female Patriots is a persuasive study of tragic drama at a time of great political change that yields new insight into the relation between women, feeling, and the public sphere.
 

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Contents

A female patriot Vanity Absurd
1
The Female Advocate and the Subject of Sympathy in The Fair Penitent
33
Sentimental Union and the Common Good
69
Janes Jacobites and the National SheTragedy
111
Gendering Patriotism in the Plays of James Thomson
157
Circulating Power Public Affections and the ReMasculinization of British Public Spirit
193
NOTES
205
BIBLIOGRAPHY
261
INDEX
285
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
293
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About the author (2011)

Brett D. Wilson is associate professor of English at the College of William & Mary. His articles on sympathy and national feeling in eighteenth-century British drama have appeared in ELH and Eighteenth-Century Studies.

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