Graduation Year

2010

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

English

Major Professor

Laura Runge, Ph.D.

Keywords

Wit, Patriarchy, Marriage contract, Women's language, Female agency

Abstract

In the hands of two prominent authors, Elizabeth Inchbald and Frances Burney, a critical paradox concerning female silence arises: while both authors operate very successfully in the publishing world, both do so while subverting impositions of silence, exhibiting a clear breach of propriety. An examination of Inchbald's novel A Simple Story and play Wives as they Were, Maids as they Are and Burney's novel Cecilia and play The Witlings, elucidates how each author adapts literary genres to portray female wit, exposing eighteenth-century impositions of silence in the process. By engendering female characters with the ability to employ humor as young women, Burney and Inchbald develop characters with agency and articulation.

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