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Imagining women readers, 1789-1820Well-regulated minds$
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De Ritter

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780719090332

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719090332.001.0001

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‘Wholesome labour’: the work of reading

‘Wholesome labour’: the work of reading

(p.55) 2 ‘Wholesome labour’: the work of reading
Imagining women readers, 1789-1820

Richard De Ritter

Manchester University Press

This chapter discusses the way in which ‘domestic’ femininity was defined in relation, rather than opposition, to the public discourses of work and productivity. Focusing predominantly upon conduct literature by Hannah More and Jane West, it explores the ways in which reading is imagined to be a form of ‘wholesome labour’, allowing women to identify with a version of the middle-class work ethic without leaving the security of the domestic sphere. At the same time, by utilising discourses of labour to depict the effort of reading, these writers risk violating the rigid codes of gender and propriety to which they generally subscribe.

Keywords:   Reading, Domesticity, Labour, Corporeality, Gender identity, Hannah More, Jane West

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