Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





David H. Richter

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature


Eighteenth-century Literature; Frances Burney; Jacobin/anti-Jacobin Novel; Jane Austen; Maria Edgeworth; Nineteenth-century Literature


The English literary responses to the French Revolution have been given thorough critical attention as has the Revolution's impact on women writers and femininity. However, the Revolution's impact on and engagement with standards of manliness have been left relatively unexplored. This dissertation examines how a critique of masculinity is positioned in the space of contemporary political considerations in the quarter-century following the French Revolution. Thus, this dissertation argues that there is a dialectical engagement between masculinity and political views in late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century English novels such as Maria Edgeworth's Belinda and Leonora, Charlotte Smith's Emmeline and Desmond, Frances Burney's Camilla, Elizabeth Jervis' Agatha, and Jane Austen's Emma. The way these novels construct and interrogate masculinity, aristocratic and otherwise, must be read in reference to not only eighteenth and nineteenth-century discourses on hegemonic masculinities, such as politeness, sensibility, gentlemanliness, and manliness, but also in reference to the discursive atmosphere of the revolutionary ideas and their conservative counterparts. It is my contention that novelists writing in the wake of the French Revolution made conscious use of tropes of and existing discourses on masculinity to construct their political arguments, and, therefore, reading these novels with an eye towards depictions of masculinity can help us better understand the politics of novels written during the Revolution Controversy, 1789-1815.