“Only Leave Them to Themselves” : Frances Brooke’s Fictional Worlds of Emancipatory Sensibility

Sammanfattning: In conversation but frequently at odds with contemporary voices on education, British eighteenth-century writer Frances Brooke (1724-1789) argued for a thoroughly revised approach to moral education that relied on the emancipatory potential of inborn sensibility. This thesis considers Brooke’s original texts, which range from periodical writing, novels, tragedies, operas, and prefaces, in the light of education, sensibility, and form, with the intention of expanding our understanding of Brooke’s contribution to eighteenth-century proto-feminist debates. The main areas of inquiry are 1) the nature and equalizing potential of a socially oriented Christian sensibility, 2) the ways in which Brooke challenged the manipulative and authoritative role of the parent/tutor in Lockean and Rousseauian methods of education, and 3) Brooke’s position as a figure of support for women’s voices in fiction and nonfiction.The methodological framework of the thesis relies on a combination of approaches that considers Brooke’s oeuvre as a whole, where detailed close readings enable the identification of Brooke’s critiques of theories of education. Aspects of fictional worlds theory illuminate the ways in which Brooke’s texts are constructed around modalities that regulate possibility, knowledge, values, and norms. Attention to how modal constraints function in Brooke’s narratives helps reveal the weaknesses inherent in the hierarchical, manipulative nature of supervisory education. Much of the strength of Brooke’s social criticism lies in the proto-feminist argument inherent in the rhetorical position of her rewrites, reimaginations, and reinventions of genre, which I treat as disruptions comparable to the chances and accidents that appear in the plots.The thesis is structured to reveal a process-like argument for emancipation inherent in Brooke’s collected works. Following the Introduction, Chapter One discusses The Old Maid, The History of Lady Julia Mandeville, and The Siege of Sinope in light of Brooke’s reaction to the manipulative strains in Locke’s and Rousseau’s methods of education. Chapter Two looks at the protagonists’ emancipatory efforts in The History of Emily Montague and Marian, and Chapter Three discusses the significance of unsupervised experiences in Virginia, The Excursion, and Rosina. The conclusion, which is structured as a reflection on the thesis title, summarizes the argument and points to future research topics on Brooke.