Imagining women readers, 1789-1820

Well-regulated minds

By Richard Ritter

Imagining women readers, 1789-1820
Hardcover +
  • Price: £85.00
  • ISBN: 9780719090332
  • Publish Date: Nov 2014
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    eBook -
  • Price: £85.00
  • ISBN: 9781526102140
  • Publish Date: Nov 2015
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    Book Information

    • Format: eBook
    • ISBN: 978-1-5261-0214-0
    • Published Date: November 2015


    Imagining women readers reassesses the cultural significance of women's reading in the period 1789-1820. From the turbulent years following the French Revolution to the fiction of Jane Austen, this book charts the rise of a self-regulating reader, who possesses both moral and cultural authority. Rather than an unproductive leisure activity, for the writers discussed in this study the act of reading is crucial to imagining forms of female participation in national life. The book thus offers a unique perspective on the relationship between reading, education and the construction of femininity, shedding new light on the work of some of the most celebrated women writers of the period.

    It will appeal to students and scholars interested in the history and representation of reading, and in women's writing of this period more generally.


    'Imagining Women Readers provides a comprehensive look at the eighteenth-century economies of representation that informed the establishment both of gendered reading curricula and of the kinds of reading activities identified with acceptable forms of female domestic labor and pleasure. De Ritter's study will be of interest to scholars working with archival material on the history of reading as a symbolic and physical or material activity, as well as those interested in the specific writers whom he references (including Wollstonecraft, More, Hays, Edgeworth, and Godwin).'
    Erin L. Webster-Garrett, Radford University, European Romantic Review

    'Richard De Ritter reminds us of the great resistance to novel-reading that accompanied the expanding popularity of the genre in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries..This is an informative volume that includes a wealth of references about the dangers and challenges of reading.'
    George E. Haggerty, The University of California, SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, Vol. 57, No. 3, Summer 2017

    'Richard De Ritter's Imagining Women Readers, 1789-1820: Well- Regulated Minds usefully tracks how assumptions about female reading practices changed over this period.'
    Talia Schaffer, SEL, Studies in English Literature, Vol. 57, No.4, Autumn 2017


    1. 'Like a sheet of white paper': books, bodies, and the sensuous materials of the mind
    2. 'Wholesome labour': the work of reading
    3. 'The enlightened energy of parental affection': post-revolutionary schemes of education
    4. 'Leisure to be wise': female education and the possibilities of domesticity
    5. Making the novel-readers of a country: pleasure and the practised reader


    Richard De Ritter is Lecturer in the School of English at the University of Leeds

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