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Women's WorkLabour, Gender, Authorship, 1750-1830$
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Jennie Batchelor

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780719082573

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719082573.001.0001

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Somebody's story: Charlotte Smith and the work of writing

Somebody's story: Charlotte Smith and the work of writing

(p.67) 2 Somebody's story: Charlotte Smith and the work of writing
Women's Work

Jennie Batchelor

Manchester University Press

This chapter examines Charlotte Smith's treatment of labour, primarily in the fiction, in order to tease out its implications for the novels' arguments about gender, domesticity and authorship. It begins with an examination of Smith's figuring of manual, affective and intellectual labour in Marchmont (1796), arguably her fullest contribution to contemporary debates on woman's work, to reveal how the novel retriangulates its author's rhetoric about the relation between women's work, domesticity and abjection, thus paving the way for a reassessment of Smith's (Lockean) self-conceptualization of her authorial labour as a form of inalienable property. Smith's figuring of writing as work was not simply a strategy to gain her readers' sympathy; rather, it was an attempt to break down the barriers that prevented women writers from laying claim to the new models of literary professionalism which were being cemented in this period. Only when we, like Smith, grapple with the complex question that is women's work can we recuperate her distinctive and ambitious construction of professional authorship as an embodied activity which was simultaneously a labour of mind, body and heart – and, unequivocally, women's work.

Keywords:   Charlotte Smith, labour, women's work, women writers, Marchmont

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