Lord Byron and women's writing

  • Lee Livingstone

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Abstract

Lord Byron’s criticisms of women writers and intellectuals are well known; his chauvinism and scorn for literary rivals have long dominated perceptions of his character and works. However, insufficient critical attention has been given to his connections with influential female authors whom he held in high regard. While there have been some tangential or cursory explorations of Byron’s engagement with women’s writing, this thesis offers a more sustained attempt to map these textual interactions. In doing so, I consider the extent to which ideas of literary ‘influence’ are appropriate for these relations. Particular case studies – Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Madame de Staël, Joanne Baillie, and Mary Shelley – are framed within wider considerations of Byron’s engagement with women writers. Building upon formative inquiries into the idea of influence (Kristeva and Barthes), and more recent studies (Anderson, Elfenbein, Bellonby, and Wolfson), this thesis ultimately argues that contrary to perceptions of Byron as the perennially facetious chauvinist there exists substantial evidence of deep intellectual engagement with the work of women writers. In arguing this, the thesis also stresses the significant impact of female authors on Romantic culture more generally. By investigating their literary interlocutors and intertextual interactions, particularly those involving authors who have traditionally been overlooked, we shed light on the intellectual and artistic underpinnings of Romantic literary culture. By doing so, we might even redirect much of the enthusiasm shared by critics of Byron, Shelley, and others, towards these women writers, who in most cases deserve much greater consideration as forces who shaped nineteenth-century culture.

Thesis embargoed until 31 December 2022.
Date of AwardDec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsAHRC Northern Bridge DTP
SupervisorMoyra Haslett (Supervisor) & Shaun Regan (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • women's writing
  • literature
  • influence
  • intertextuality
  • Byron
  • romantic
  • poetry
  • drama
  • Mary Shelley
  • Joanna Baillie
  • De Stael
  • Wortley Montagu

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