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‘Lasting Associations’: The Material Psychology of Anna Letitia Barbauld, Hannah More, and Elizabeth Hamilton

Wharton, Joanna (2014) ‘Lasting Associations’: The Material Psychology of Anna Letitia Barbauld, Hannah More, and Elizabeth Hamilton. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

This thesis uncovers theories and applications of psychology in the work of three women writers of late eighteenth-century Britain: Anna Letitia Barbauld, Hannah More and Elizabeth Hamilton. It traces their engagement in discourse on the nature of mind through analysis of the texts they produced between 1770 and 1815, and takes an interdisciplinary approach to establish the significance of what I identify as ‘material psychology’ in their cultural and social activity. I argue that their textual and material uses of philosophy transformed disciplines, shaping early psychology in far more thoughtful, varied, and influential ways than has been acknowledged. The introduction outlines feminist applications of John Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689), and discusses the challenges facing women who sought to harness the potential of his tabqula rasa hypothesis. It maps out the increasingly contested politics of psychology in the years following the French Revolution, considering misogynistic representations of the ‘Female Philosopher’ in the context of Mary Hays’ materialist feminism. I demarcate the often vexed or unclear gender politics of More, Barbauld and Hamilton, and propose a material and sensory reassessment of their domestic strategies for reform. This study contributes to the literary history of women by re-evaluating their place in the Enlightenment ‘science of man’, a full understanding of which demands innovative reinterpretation of interdisciplinary perspectives on gender and science in the late eighteenth century. My argument challenges the notion that women’s engagement with medical and philosophical discourse at this time was contained by the gendered nervous paradigm, and rethinks the potential for women writers in the culture of sensibility. It resists notions of uniformity in women’s writing by providing a comprehensive account of the continuities, divergences and conflicts between them, and opens up a richly discursive philosophical field for closer investigation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.628587
Depositing User: Joanna Wharton
Date Deposited: 28 Oct 2014 14:22
Last Modified: 23 Oct 2019 00:18
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/7096

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