This study looks at developments in eighteenth-century drama that influenced the rise of the novel; it begins by asking why women writers of this period experimented so frequently with both novels and plays. Here, Eliza Haywood, Frances Burney, Elizabeth Inchbald, Maria Edgeworth, and Jane Austen explore theatrical frames--from the playhouse, to the social conventions of masquerade, to the fictional frame of the novel itself—that encourage audiences to dismiss what they contain as feigned. Yet such frames also, as a result, create a safe space for self-expression. These authors explore such payoffs both within their work—through descriptions of heroines who disguise themselves to express themselves—and through it. Reading the act of authorship as itself a form of performance, Anderson contextualizes the convention of fictionality that accompanied the development of the novel; she notes that as the novel, like the theater of the earlier eighteenth century, came to highlight its fabricated nature, authors could use it as a covert yet cathartic space. Fiction for these authors, like theatrical performance for the actor, thus functions as an act of both disclosure and disguise—or finally presents self-expression as the ability to oscillate between the two, in "the play of fiction."
"Anderson's argument—that drama and novel entered into a relationship over the course of the eighteenth century, whereby each shaped the other's distinctively modern form—is so reasonable I find it difficult to believe no literary historian has advanced it until now. Eighteenth-Century Authorship and the Play of Fiction offers a completely new way of accounting for literary events, especially the impact of women playwrights, that culminate in the novels of Edgeworth and Austen. This book should attract scholarly attention to dramatic form and theater history, as well as the novel. --Nancy Armstrong, Duke University
"This is a timely, supple, uncommonly nuanced investigation of the hitherto largely uncontested border that divides theater and fiction in 18th-century British culture. Anderson offers careful, original, and fluent case studies of four women novelists who were also playwrights--Eliza Haywood, Frances Burney, Elizabeth Inchbald, and Maria Edgeworth. --Jayne Lewis, University of California, Irivne
In Eighteenth-Century Authorship and the Play of Fiction, Emily Anderson modifies our understanding of how the subject is situated in the novel--allowing us to perceive and gain access to a concept of the self and of subjectivity in eighteenth-century culture that is the product of the dynamic interplay of surface and depth, exterior and interior, artifice and truth. -- Lisa A. Freeman, University of Illinois at Chicago
1. The Play of Fiction 2. Rehearsing Love: Eliza Haywood's Theatrical Fiction 3. Forgetting the Self: Frances Burney and Staged Insensibility 4. Acting "as" Herself: Elizabeth Inchbald and the Performance of Subjectivity 5. Pedagogical Performance: Maria Edgeworth's Didactic Approach to Fiction 6. Epilogue: Generic Revolutions: Mansfield Park and the "Womanly Style" of Fiction