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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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‘Leisure to be wise’: female education and the possibilities of domesticity

‘Leisure to be wise’: female education and the possibilities of domesticity

(p.130) 4 ‘Leisure to be wise’: female education and the possibilities of domesticity
Imagining women readers, 1789-1820

Richard De Ritter

Manchester University Press

For Maria Edgeworth, women's exclusion from professional labour frees them from the requirement to tailor their knowledge to the demands of a single specialisation: it provides them with ‘leisure to be wise’. This chapter questions the social utility of the intellectual capital that this formulation allows women to accrue. It compares accounts of female readers with their male counterparts, asking how the issue of gender helps to distinguish leisured wisdom from unproductive indolence. Using the example of Edgeworth's Belinda, it revisits the idea of reading as symbolic labour, attending both to its positive agency and its limitations.

Keywords:   Reading, Domesticity, Leisure, Labour, Professionalism, Public Sphere, Maria Edgeworth

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