Generic variety in conduct literature: the negotiation of desire

Sonia Alexandra Prunean, Noelia Sánchez-Campos

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Within the context of the rise of domestic education and middle-class women readers and writers, conduct literature has made a substantial contribution to the understanding of social responsibilities and proper behaviour. The traditional representation of women is that they show humble submission and that they compliantly meet the rules and standards of society. However, we argue that women writers such as Lady Mary Chudleigh, Delarivier Manley, Susanna Centlivre, Elisabeth Singer Rowe, Eliza Haywood and Sarah Pennington have found ways to go beyond ideal models of femininity and to respond to this hegemonic society by negotiating the notion of desire and by creating alter-egos in conduct literature. The paper focuses on six different kinds of texts representing the generic variety of this sort of writing: a poem, a semi-autobiographical novel, a comedy, a three-part epistolary conduct book, a periodical and advice writing or a conduct manual. Through this approach we aim to show that this variety of texts is an attempt to illustrate the universal response to the existing social mores.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5712-5738
Number of pages27
JournalEuropean Academic Research
Issue number11
Early online date1 Feb 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2014


  • women writers
  • eighteenth-century conduct literature
  • passive obedience
  • impermissible desires
  • domestic sphere
  • alter-egos
  • generic variety

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