Anne Mellor, "A Criticism of their Own: Romantic Women
Questioning Romanticism, ed. John Beer
Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1995. 29-48.
"In place of the mirror and the lamp, we might think of
literary critics as sustaining an earlier Enlightenment image
popularized by Addison and Cowper, the image of literature as
or scale that weighs equally the demands of the head and the
"In their writings this balance or scale is always held . . .
by a woman"
"Romantic women writers, whether conservative or radical,
not the achievements of genius nor the spontaneous overflow of
feelings but rather the workings of the rational mind, a mind
a gesture of revolutionary social implications—in the female
as well as
the male body" (31).
"Romantic women writers represent a subjectivity constructed
to other subjectivities, hence a self that is fluid,
with permeable ego boundaries" (31).
"In their writings, this self typically locates its identity
connections with a larger human group [not unlike WW?],
whether the family
or a social community" (31).
"While they shared an Enlightenment commitment to
added to it the revolutionary claim that the female mind was
not only as
rational as the male but perhaps even more
"In this feminine Romanticism ideology, moral reform both of
and of the family politic is achieved, then, not by utopian
vision but by the communal exercise of reason, moderation,
the domestic affections that can embrace even the alien other,
They suggested "that those cultural values historically
women were superior to those associated with men. They
the values of domesticity—the private virtues of sympathy,
affection, and a commitment to an ethic of care—should become
program for all public or civic action" (33).
"Since women were denied access to the institutions of
in England and were typically taught only the
'accomplishments' of a well-bred
young lady (dancing, singing, sketching, needle-work, a
smattering of French
and Italian, a little arithmetic and—most important—how to
read and write),
the women critics of the Romantic period recognized that
reading of a good book—was essential to the rational education
"They developed a new image of the ideal female as one who is
and socially responsible, one who takes the lead in governing
and her children" (36).
"Romantic women literary critics used their writings not only
new roles and more egalitarian marriages for women but also to
the abuses of patriarchy and the traditional construction of
"They explicitly defend a mimetic theory of art against the
of the male Romantic poets to invoke visionary experiences or
events in medieval or exotic settings" (38).
"These women critics consistently argued that sensibility
must be joined
with correct perception, that literature must record not
flights of fancy or
escapist desire but empirical truth" (39).
"Not only was the novel capable of depicting a world that was
probable and more psychologically acute than that found in
epic | poetry
or the earlier romances, it was also more democratic"
"Writing a criticism of their own, poised midway between a
mimetic aesthetic, on the one hand, . . . and, on the other
hand, a masculine
Romantic aesthetic devoted to celebrating the originality and
feeling of the poet, Romantic women literary critics offered a
They insisted that the cultural role of literature is to
educate even more
than to delight, to educate by teaching readers to take
delight in the
triumph of moral benevolence, sexual self-control, and
"Not the poet but the novelist, and a female novelist at
becomes the unacknowledged legislator of the world" (47).
"In claiming the novel as their own, Romantic women critics
claim to a revolution in both female manners and cultural