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Zoë Kinsley

This article considers the ways in which eighteenth-century womens travel narratives function as autobiographical texts, examining the process by which a travellers dislocation from home can enable exploration of the self through the observation and description of place. It also, however, highlights the complexity of the relationship between two forms of writing which a contemporary readership viewed as in many ways distinctly different. The travel accounts considered, composed (at least initially) in manuscript form, in many ways contest the assumption that manuscript travelogues will somehow be more self-revelatory than printed accounts. Focusing upon the travel writing of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Katherine Plymley, Caroline Lybbe Powys and Dorothy Richardson, the article argues for a more historically nuanced approach to the reading of womens travel writing and demonstrates that the narration of travel does not always equate to a desired or successful narration of the self.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
Victoria Joule

In this article I demonstrate the significance of a flexible approach to examining the autobiographical in early eighteenth-century womens writing. Using ‘old stories’, existing and developing narrative and literary forms, womens autobiographical writing can be discovered in places other than the more recognizable forms such as diaries and memoirs. Jane Barker and Delarivier Manley‘s works are important examples of the dynamic and creative use of cross-genre autobiographical writing. The integration of themselves in their fictional and poetic works demonstrates the potential of generic fluidity for innovative ways to express and explore the self in textual forms.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
Claire Harman

This article looks at Frances Burneys contribution to life writing through her composition, preservation and curatorship of her own personal archive and management of family papers. It charts Burneys chronic anxieties about the possible interpretation of the record that she had created, and the tension between self-expression and self-exposure which underlay her very revealing difficulties with editing, archivism and publication.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
Sonja Boon

In this article I use conceptual frames drawn from autobiography studies and feminist theory to examine the relationships between bodily experience and the social construction of sex, gender and class as they play themselves out in a selection of womens medical consultation letters written to the eminent Swiss physician, Samuel-Auguste Tissot, during the second half of the eighteenth century. My analysis of a selection of consultation letters - all of which are situated and read in the context of a rich archival collection of some 1,200 letters - considers the role that bodily experience plays in the construction of self and suggests that not only the experience, but also the textual articulation of the body, were imagined both through and against accepted understandings of sex, gender and class during this period.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
Lisa Crawley

Through her own words, Mary Hamilton demonstrates the rich resources available for the study of an elite womans life during the latter part of the eighteenth-century and allows us to resurrect more fully the life of a member of an elite circle of women during this period. Her diaries reveal the many opportunities that she had to meet with a number of the significant figures of her day, and shed light on how her academic efforts were perceived by those around her. This article shows how her writings offer researchers an insight into eighteenth-century society as viewed and lived by a woman who was close not only to the centre of high society but also to the intellectual elite of the day. It considers how valuable a resource the diaries and papers are as a potential research tool not only for the study of women‘s history but as a rich resource for the period.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library

The First World War was the first ‘total war’. Its industrial weaponry damaged millions of men, and drove whole armies underground into dangerously unhealthy trenches. Many were killed. Others suffered from massive, life-threatening injuries; wound infections such as gas gangrene and tetanus; exposure to extremes of temperature; emotional trauma; and systemic disease. Tens of thousands of women volunteered to serve as nurses to alleviate their suffering. Some were fully-trained professionals; others had minimal preparation, and served as volunteer-nurses. Their motivations were a combination of compassion, patriotism, professional pride and a desire for engagement in the ‘great enterprise’ of war. The war led to an outpouring of war-memoirs, produced mostly by soldier-writers whose works came to be seen as a ‘literary canon’ of war-writing. But nurses had offered immediate and long-term care, life-saving expertise, and comfort to the war’s wounded, and their experiences had given them a perspective on industrial warfare which was unique. Until recently, their contributions, both to the saving of lives and to our understanding of warfare have remained largely hidden from view. ‘Nurse Writers of the Great War’ examines these nurses’ memoirs and explores the insights they offer into the nature of nursing and the impact of warfare. The book combines close biographical research with textual analysis, in order to offer an understanding of both nurses’ wartime experiences and the ways in which their lives and backgrounds contributed to the style and content of their writing.

Patriarchy, piety, and singlehood in early Stuart England
Author: Isaac Stephens

A microhistory of a never-married English gentlewoman named Elizabeth Isham, this book centres on an extremely rare piece of women’s writing – a relatively newly discovered 60,000-word spiritual autobiography held in Princeton’s manuscript collections that she penned circa 1639. The document is among the richest extant sources related to early modern women, and offers a wealth of information not only on Elizabeth’s life but also on the seventeenth-century Ishams. Indeed, it is unmatched in providing an inside view of her family relations, her religious beliefs, her reading habits, and, most sensationally, the reasons why she chose never to marry despite desires to the contrary held by her male kin, particularly Sir John Isham, her father. Based on the autobiography, combined with extensive research of the Isham family papers now housed at the county record office in Northampton, the book recreates Elizabeth’s world, placing her in the larger community of Northamptonshire and then reconstructing her family life and the patriarchal authority that she lived under at her home of Lamport Hall. Restoring our historical memory of Elizabeth and her female relations, this reconstruction demonstrates why she wrote her autobiography and the influence that family and religion had on her unmarried state, reading, and confessional identity, expanding our understanding and knowledge about patriarchy, piety, and singlehood in early modern England.

War, writing and experience in Serbia and Russia, 1914–20
Author: Angela K. Smith

This book explores the experiences and contributions of British women performing various kinds of active service across the Eastern Front in Serbia, Russia and Romania during the First World War. The book is roughly chronological, but also examines related themes such as gender, nationality and legacy. Upon the outbreak of the War in 1914, rejected by the British military, surprising numbers of British women went to work for the allied armies in the East. The book considers their experiences before and after the fall of Serbia in 1915. Other women were caught in Russia and remained there to offer service. Later, women’s Units moved further East from Serbia to work on the Romanian and Russian Fronts, only to be caught up in revolution. This book explores their many experiences and achievements, within an appropriate historical and cultural context and interprets their own words by examining the many and varied written records they left behind. Women such as Dr Elsie Inglis, Mabel St Clair Stobart, Flora Sandes and Florence Farmborough are studied alongside many others whose diaries, letters, memoirs and journalism help to shape the extraordinary role played by British women in the East and their subsequent legacy.

Trauma and resilience in the narratives of medical personnel in warzones
Authors: Carol Acton and Jane Potter

Working in a World of Hurt uncovers and analyses the range of responses to psychological trauma by male and female medical personnel in wartime in the 20th and early 21st centuries. Until now, academic and popular studies have focused on the trauma experienced by soldiers and civilians, saying very little about the mental strain endured by their healers. Acton & Potter seek to understand the subjective experiences of British, American and Canadian doctors, nurses, and other medical workers by studying personal accounts contained in letters, diaries and memoirs, both published and unpublished, and in weblogs. Offering an interdisciplinary understanding across a large chronological sweep of both the medical experience and the literary history of war, Working a World of Hurt demonstrates that while these narratives are testaments to the suffering of combatants, they also bear witness to the trauma of the healers themselves whose responses range from psychological and physical breakdown to stoical resilience and pride in their efforts to assuage the wounds of war.