Identity politics in the works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
Creed, Carolyn Joy
The thesis defines Lady Mary's evolving "I am" statement from its first appearance in juvenilia to its last, novel-based. Using feminist and new historicist methods, the study penetrates a multi-voiced epistolary self to her imaginary works' personae. The early chapters are arranged in the following order. Chapter 1 assesses the proto-feminist standing claimed for Lady Mary, a tentative positioning against traditional and male-authorized aspects of her identity. Chapter 2 locates early models, Virgilian or Scuderian, by imitation of which Lady Mary gains selfhood. Experiments with forms and poses lead to the woman writer's identity. Chapter 3 declares the Language of Flowers an emblematizing of identity. The self-image in the Turkish Embassy Letters admits secret codes and adopts pro-Turkish attitudes. Chapter 4 examines Lady Mary's right to the "Court Wit" title given to Rochester or Gay. The 'Court Eclogs' and the answer poems to Pope's 'Dunciad' expose a shifting literary figure. The later chapters demonstrate mature selfhood. Chapter 5 treats the marriage comedy, 'Simplicity', as a role-playing matrix for Lady Mary as mother/daughter, then compares her letters to Lady Bute with other parent-child discourses. Chapter 6 renders the physical identity, the body-image of the intellectual: Lady Mary's frequent portrayals, disguised, enhanced or "barefaced," inform the chapter. Chapter 7 concludes by aligning the quixotic Lady Mary with other Quixotes including her own Princess Docile, to profile the ultimately majestic figure of the author herself.