Women in Eighteenth-Century Essay-Periodicals - Female Space in The Literary Public Sphere of The spectator and The Female Spectator
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This is a study of ‘female space’ in two eighteenth-century periodicals: The Spectator (1711-1712) and The Female Spectator (1744-1746). Its aim is to offer a new perspective on the gender politics of these periodicals by performing a close analysis and comparative reading of, firstly, their construction of ‘implied readers’, and, secondly, their incorporation of correspondence from readers (or ‘pseudo-readers’). The thesis is a response to earlier feminist studies which have focused on the excluding, masculine nature of The Spectator’s moral essays or presented The Female Spectator as the first essay-periodical written primarily for women by a woman which consequently strives to include and promote women as readers and writers. The thesis is based upon a reading of the full runs of the periodicals (which, in much scholarship, are read highly selectively) with a focus upon textual moments that construct a sense of an implied reader plus letters from readers subjected to taxonomical analysis so as to provide an overall correspondence ‘map’. Both reading strategies are used as ways of uncovering the communities the periodicals imaginatively create and of tracing the position of women within what I term the ‘literary public sphere’ of the periodicals. This study finds that The Spectator included more diverse female voices in its literary public sphere compared to The Female Spectator which instead dedicated a significant part of its content to male implied readers and implicitly sought to improve women’s conditions within the constraints of its patriarchal contemporary society.