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A Feminine EnlightenmentBritish Women Writers and the Philosophy of Progress, 1759-1820$
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JoEllen DeLucia

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780748695942

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748695942.001.0001

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Stadial Fiction or the Progress of Taste

Stadial Fiction or the Progress of Taste

Chapter:
(p.153) Chapter 5 Stadial Fiction or the Progress of Taste
Source:
A Feminine Enlightenment
Author(s):

JoEllen DeLucia

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748695942.003.0005

The final chapter argues that the questions about women and the civilizing process first raised in the relatively elite milieu of Montagu’s Bluestocking salons migrated into the popular fiction of the Romantic era, shaping conversations about women and historical progress into the nineteenth century. The term conjectural fiction borrows from Dugald Stewart’s term “conjectural history,” which describes the stadial method of historiography developed during the Scottish Enlightenment. Conjectural fiction highlights Regina Maria Roche and Maria Edgeworth’s use of the feminine and aesthetic categories of delicacy, elegance, and beauty to gauge changing historical and economic conditions in their fiction. This comparative approach to charting progress also migrated into aesthetic theories from the same period, including Hugh Blair’s Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres (1783), Lord Kames’s Essay on Criticism (1762), and Dugald Stewart’s Essay on Taste (1810).

Keywords:   aesthetics, Maria Edgeworth, gothic, historical novel, Regina Maria Roche, Scottish Enlightenment

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