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Ruby Hawley-Sibbett

Research Student, Faculty of Arts

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Research Summary

Current Status: PhD (full-time) - currently registered

Research Topic:

Women writers' use of English and Welsh national, regional, and domestic spaces in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century prose fiction

Research Summary:

My research analyses the use of space in female-authored Romantic-period prose fiction set in Wales and a selection of English regions, including the West Country and the Midlands. I will consider how a variety of forms and genres of fiction engage with national, regional, and domestic spaces. These divisions, or levels, of space reflect contemporary concerns about individual and collective identities, including issues of class, community, and the role of women.

Female-authored regional fiction of this period remains relatively overlooked, even though questions of regionality and nationality 'figure prominently in the academy's reconfigured models of Romanticism' (Walford Davies and Pratt, 2007). Recent revivals of female prose writers have generally taken place through a "four nations" rather than regional framework; my research will contribute to the recovery of currently overlooked texts, combining the attention to national space central to the "four nations" framework with greater consideration of the regional and the domestic. I will draw on Kelly's argument that women writers engaged in 'the extension of the suitably feminine topic of domesticity' in order to comment on national issues (1993).

The English section of my thesis will compare representations of national, regional, and domestic spaces in the works of Jane Austen and Frances Burney with those of writers who are currently overlooked, including some with specific regional associations. I will consider whether novels of rural description and tales of fashionable life constitute and English "national tale". I will also analyse female-authored Anglophone 'Welsh' novels, which remain almost entirely overlooked in contrast to their Scottish and Irish equivalents. Jane Aaron (2010) finds that most Romantic-era Anglophone 'Welsh' novels were written by Englishwomen, and therefore have not benefited from reassessments of Celtic literary history.

This research builds on my MA dissertation 'Extending Domesticity Within and Beyond the Home in the Novels of Susan Ferrier' and my BA dissertation on food in Austen's juvenilia.

Research Supervisors:

Primary Funding Source:

AHRC Midlands 3 Cities Doctoral Training Partnership (full scholarship)

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