The Advent of the Masculinized Woman in Romantic Literature

Alysha Allen


Both male and female writers portray anxiety in their respective works over female authors’ entrance into literature throughout many texts of the Romantic period. Indeed, Romantic literature persists in viewing women of letters as imposters in the literary realm. The lady in John Keats’s “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” exemplifies the intrusion of the masculinized, British female writer of the 19th century. The lady’s attempts to usurp the knight’s power are analogous to the fear held about the burgeoning, female belletrists entering into the male-owned domain of literature. The disastrous culmination of the poem supports the idea that men and women cannot, or even should not, share either the same domain or pursuits. In other texts of the period, such as Zofloya; or, The Moor: A Romance of the Fifteenth Century, Charlotte Dacre envisions the female writer as ignominious. Women’s shame over their intrusion into the literary field manifests itself in the novel when the masculinized Victoria throws another of her own sex down a cliff-side. In both of these texts, disaster arises because the women have intruded upon and arrogated masculine positions. They have forsaken expected stereotypical and archetypal female qualities of docility and submissiveness. My research illuminates Romantic writers’ attempts to bowdlerize the female authoress from literature. Their attempts to banish her would have succeeded had the woman of letters not become a shameless punisher of literary tradition and continued to pen her words upon the same pages as those of her male predecessors and contemporaries.


Romantic; Literature; Women

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