||My thesis aims to explore the conflict between bourgeois and romance ideologies in Charlotte Lennox’s The Female Quixote in terms of women’s reading, power, and marriage in the eighteenth century. In chapter one, I focus on Arabella’s access to romantic fantasies, offering an overview of women’s position and reading in bourgeois society. Through examining the society’s attitude to and concerns with reading, we can see that in the bourgeois ideal women are voiceless and restrained within the domestic domain, the one that offers no opportunities for the significance that romance heroines enjoy. Also, both women’s motives to read and the society’s eagerness to prohibit it reflect the economical and capitalistic sides of the bourgeoisie. Then, Arabella’s exclusive reading of romance makes her totally subject to it; the canonized romances become the female tradition for Arabella. By comparing the quasi-classicism of romance to the contemporaneity of novel, the discrepancy between Arabella and the outside world is clearly shown. She endeavors to yearn for significance in the prosaic reality which offers no opportunity. |
Consequently, chapter two examines Arabella’s power on two levels. Arabella, trying to mediate the gap, constructs her romantic counter-reality with the help of the power of imagination. Arabella manipulates her surroundings to make them meet the requirements of the romantic world, which appears to be an autonomous domain governed by love, excluding the laws, morality, and secularity of the reality. Furthermore, in the love-ruled realm the power structure of bourgeois society seems to be reversed. Women have power over their submissive and constant suitors. The typical images of both genders are reversed. However, heroines’ possession of power is at the expense of rejecting and denying female sexuality and desire. Therefore the autonomy and the reversal of power structure proposed by romance are actually illusive; the power only exists by sacrificing female subjectivity.
In chapter three I will probe into the double-edged role marriage plays. The marriage between Arabella and Glanville can be seen as the compromise between romance and bourgeois ideologies. With the help of her manipulation of the reality, Arabella’s marriage does exemplify the romantic ideal. Glanville is romantically presented as a hero performing countless actions to win his lover. Their marriage is depicted as an amatory union, which is the essential ending in romances wherein love is sanctified. On the other hand, the marriage ending also satisfies the concerns of middle-class society, wherein marriage is considered as a trade and bears an economic mission rather than connecting two lovers. Hence the marriage plot functions as a happy ending that settles the two confronting ideologies.