Kelly McGuire

Dying to be English

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Enlightenment assumptions regarding the gendering of suicide still persist in coroners' investigations, statistical analyses and the media's coverage of high-profile deaths. This study examines the presentation of suicide within the genre of the eighteenth-century novel as both a feminine action and a declaration of national identity. A perceived rise in suicide rates in the eighteenth-century led to the topic's identification as an 'English Malady' and its treatment within the novel as a public, society-defining gesture. Using the novels of several key writers of the period, including Frances Burney, Eliza Haywood and Samuel Richardson, McGuire demonstrates that their work inscribes a nationalist imperative to frame suicide as self-sacrifice. By considering the eighteenth-century novel as a cultural document, she combines literary analysis with cultural history, creating an innovative and challenging picture of the relationship between suicide, gender and national identity.
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540 printed pages

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