Women and Gift Exchange in Eighteenth-Century Fiction: Richardson, Burney, Austen, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Women and Gift Exchange in Eighteenth-Century Fiction

Richardson, Burney, Austen, 1st Edition

By Linda Zionkowski

Routledge

252 pages

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Hardback: 9781138645233
pub: 2016-06-07
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Description

This book analyzes why the most influential novelists of the long eighteenth century centered their narratives on the theory and practice of gift exchange. Throughout this period, fundamental shifts in economic theories regarding the sources of individual and national wealth along with transformations in the practices of personal and institutional charity profoundly altered cultural understandings of the gift's rationale, purpose, and function. Drawing on materials such as sermons, conduct books, works of political philosophy, and tracts on social reform, Zionkowski challenges the idea that capitalist discourse was the dominant influence on the development of prose fiction. Instead, by shifting attention to the gift system as it was imagined and enacted in the formative years of the novel, the volume offers an innovative understanding of how the economy of obligation shaped writers' portrayals of class and gender identity, property, and community. Through theoretically-informed readings of Richardson's Clarissa and Sir Charles Grandison, Burney's Cecilia and The Wanderer, and Austen's Mansfield Park and Emma, the book foregrounds the issues of donation, reciprocity, indebtedness, and gratitude as it investigates the conflicts between the market and moral economies and analyzes women's position at the center of these conflicts. As this study reveals, the exchanges that eighteenth-century fiction prescribed for women confirm the continuing power and importance of gift transactions in the midst of an increasingly commercial culture. The volume will be essential reading for scholars of the eighteenth-century novel, economic literary criticism, women and gender studies, and book history.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Novel and the Gift

1. Clarissa and the Hazards of the Gift

2. Reclaiming the Gift in Sir Charles Grandison

3. Three: The Gift and the Market in Cecilia

4. The Gift and the Nation in The Wanderer

5. Transforming the Gift in Mansfield Park

6. Trifling Presents in Emma

Conclusion: "Nothing better that I can do in the world"

About the Author

Linda Zionkowski is Professor of English at Ohio University, where she teaches eighteenth-century British literature. Her publications include Men's Work: Gender, Class, and the Professionalization of Poetry, 1660-1784; The Culture of the Gift in Eighteenth-Century England (with Cynthia Klekar); and most recently, articles on the musical culture of Jane Austen.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Eighteenth-Century Literature

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LIT000000
LITERARY CRITICISM / General
LIT004120
LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh
LIT004290
LITERARY CRITICISM / Women Authors
LIT007000
LITERARY CRITICISM / Books & Reading
LIT024030
LITERARY CRITICISM / Modern / 18th Century