Women, Space and Utopia 1600–1800  book cover
1st Edition

Women, Space and Utopia 1600–1800

ISBN 9781138264816
Published March 29, 2017 by Routledge
208 Pages

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Book Description

The first full length study of women's utopian spatial imagination in the seventeenth and eigtheenth centuries, this book explores the sophisticated correlation between identity and social space. The investigation is mainly driven by conceptual questions and thus seeks to link theoretical debates about space, gender and utopianism to historiographic debates about the (gendered) social production of space. As Pohl's primary aim is to demonstrate how women writers explore the complex (gender) politics of space, specific attention is given to spaces that feature widely in contemporary utopian imagination: Arcadia, the palace, the convent, the harem and the country house. The early modern writers Lady Mary Wroth and Margaret Cavendish seek to recreate Paradise in their versions of Eden and Jerusalem; the one yearns for Arcadia, the other for Solomon's Temple. Margaret Cavendish and Mary Astell redefine the convent as an emancipatory space, dismissing its symbolic meaning as a confining and surveilled architecture. The utopia of the country house in the work of Delarivier Manley, Sarah Scott and Mary Hamilton will reveal how women writers resignify the traditional metonym of the country estate. The study will finish with an investigation of Oriental tales and travel writing by Ellis Cornelia Knight, Lady Mary Montagu, Elizabeth Craven and Lady Hester Stanhope who unveil the seraglio as a location for a Western, specifically masculine discourse on Orientalism, despotism and female sexuality and offers their own utopian judgment.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; The architecture of paradise: Eden and Jerusalem; 'An emblem of themselves': the country house as Utopia; 'In this sacred space': convents and academies; Fatima's house: oriental voyage Utopias; Afterword; Works cited; Index.

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Nicole Pohl is Lecturer in English in the School of Cultural Studies, University College Northampton, UK.


'Women, Space, and Utopia, 1600-1800 is a superbly researched, compelling account of the ways ideas about architecture, planning, and geography simultaneously influenced the construction of gender and stimulated the utopian imagination in a period engrossed with social norms and reforms. A fascinating, ambitious, and original study.' Alessa Johns, Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Davis and author of Women's Utopias of the Eighteenth Century 'The book takes a fresh and innovative approach to a well-traversed topic... the book is an original and stimulating reading of a hitherto-ignored generic aspect of women's writing.' Renaissance Quarterly