Identity politics in the works of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
Creed, Carolyn Joy
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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.