How and to what extent did women writers shape and inform the aesthetics of Romanticism? Were undervalued genres such as the romance, gothic fiction, the tale, and the sentimental and philosophical novel part of a revolution leading to newer, more democratic models of taste? Fiona Price takes up these important questions in her wide-ranging study of women's prose writing during an extended Romantic period. While she offers a re-evaluation of major women writers such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Maria Edgeworth, Ann Radcliffe and Charlotte Smith, Price also places emphasis on less well-known figures, including Joanna Baillie, Anna Letitia Barbauld, Elizabeth Hamilton and Priscilla Wakefield. The revolution in taste occasioned by their writing, she argues, was not only aesthetic but, following in the wake of British debates on the French Revolution, politically charged. Her book departs from previous studies of aesthetics that emphasize the differences between male and female writers or focus on higher status literary forms such as the treatise. In demonstrating that women writers' discussion of taste can be understood as an intervention at the most fundamental level of political involvement, Price advances our understanding of Romantic aesthetics.
Fiona Price is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Chichester. She has published on eighteenth-century aesthetics, Romantic women's writing, and Scottish Common Sense Philosophy. She is also editor of Jane Porter's novel The Scottish Chiefs (1810; 2007).
'This is an original and fascinating study of important texts by women which will change how they are read. It provides a starting point for discussion of writers who have not received attention, like Harriet and Sophia Lee and Priscilla Wakefield, as well as furthering study of those about whom critical discussion exists, including Clara Reeve and Elizabeth Hamilton.' Lisa Vargo, University of Saskatchewan, Canada ’... a fascinating study of Romantic-period taste...an important contribution to understanding of Romantic-period women writers’ contributions to class-based aesthetics... Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty.’ Choice ’Revolutions in Taste is an effective book that makes an important argument, one especially needed at this moment of resurgent theoretical interest in aesthetics and politics.’ Journal of British Studies 'Much of the value of this engaging book resides in the particularity of its own glance which, in a similar way, combines rigorous close-readings of important but neglected texts, with a comprehensive overview of the political significance of taste.' BARS Bulletin and Review