Depression and Gender: The Expression and Experience of Melancholy in the Eighteenth Century

Harrison, Pauline (2011) Depression and Gender: The Expression and Experience of Melancholy in the Eighteenth Century. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Abstract

This thesis investigates the life and work of six eighteenth-century writers, two male and four female. It explores their experience of depression through their letters and other autobiographical material, and examines the ways in which they represent melancholy in their poetry and prose. The subject of Chapter Two is Thomas Gray, whose real life persona as the lonely intellectual is also identifiable in his poetry. The Scottish poet Robert Fergusson is studied in Chapter Three. Fergusson’s lively and vigorous mind was shattered in the months leading up to his death, during which time some of his writing became darkly nihilistic. Chapter Four looks at Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea, a lifelong depressive who often wrote about her feelings of despair in her poetry. Chapter Five explores Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. She was a courageous and controversial figure, but despite her resilience, on occasion in her letters she reveals her vulnerability and susceptibility to low spirits, a mood which is sometimes expressed in her creative writing. Sarah Scott, whose life and work have not yet been considered in relation to the subject of melancholy, is examined in Chapter Six. Her novel includes several low-spirited and depressed female characters who are continually seeking asylum from a hostile world. Chapter Seven analyses Charlotte Smith, a mother of twelve children whose unhappy marriage ended in separation. Smith wrote extensively about her depression in her letters, prefaces, poetry and novels.

This study shows that the women in particular use their writing on melancholy and depression to express their discontent with the confined way in which they are often expected to live out their lives.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Thomas Gray, Robert Ferguson, Millennium Hall, Charlotte Smith, the spleen
Subjects: Q200 Comparative Literary studies
Q300 English studies
V100 History by period
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Arts
University Services > Research and Business Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Ellen Cole
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2012 14:15
Last Modified: 10 May 2017 11:00
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/4454

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