Review by Choice Review
Meticulously researched and solidly written, this study makes a valuable contribution to the understanding of women's literature. Copeland (Pomona College) takes as his subject "the consumer agenda of women's fiction, 1790-1820." The author provides discussions of fiction of the 1790s (including gothic), in which women were usually depicted as victims of imposed impoverishment; fiction after 1800, which recognizes the empowerment of women through their control of domestic economy; and Jane Austen's use of money and rank "to convey social meaning and power." He also offers a provocative analysis of 19 illustrations from The Lady's Magazine and readings of several novels dealing with women's employment, including the profession of writing. Copeland's strength is close textual analysis, informed by the perspectives of economic history and cultural studies. He makes nodding references to Bakhtin, Derrida, Jameson, Poovey, and others. He provides one particularly useful tool: a scale that enables readers to calculate costs, competencies, and worth (e.g., if a character is described as having an annual income of a thousand pounds, what does that mean in terms of rank and consumer power?). The exhaustive and useful bibliography includes both primary sources (many of them obscure) and secondary sources. Highly recommended for upper-division undergraduates and above. E. R. Baer; Gustavus Adolphus College
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
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