Material Enlightenment

Material Enlightenment

Women Writers and the Science of Mind, 1770-1830

Joanna Wharton


Boydell Press



A methodologically innovative account of the role of women writers in the development of early psychological theory and practice in the long eighteenth century.
Women writers played a central, but hitherto under-recognised, role in the development of the philosophy of mind and its practical outworkings in Romantic era England, Scotland and Ireland. This book focuses on the writings and lives of five leading figures - Anna Barbauld, Honora Edgeworth, Hannah More, Elizabeth Hamilton and Maria Edgeworth - a group of women who differed profoundly in their political, religious and social views but were nevertheless associated through correspondence, family ties and a shared belief in the importance of female education. It shows how through the philosophical language of materiality and embodiment that they developed and the 'enlightened domesticity' that they espoused they transformed educational practice and made substantial interventions into the social reformist politics of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Alive to the manifold overlaps between emotional, and often religious, experience and experiment in the developing science of mind at this time, the book illuminates the potential and the limits of domestic Enlightenment, particularly in projects of moral and industrial 'improvement' and casts new light on a wide variety of other fields: the history of science, early psychology and religion, reformist politics and Romanticism, and how all these reflected the political and social fallout of the French Revolution in the first years of the nineteenth century.

JOANNA WHARTON is an Early Career Fellow at Lichtenberg-Kolleg, the Göttingen Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

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October 2018
8 black and white illustrations
288 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Studies in the Eighteenth Century
ISBN: 9781783272952
Format: Hardback
Boydell Press
BISAC LIT004290, HIS037050, SCI034000
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Table of Contents

'Things Themselves': Anna Letitia Barbauld's Lessons and Hymns
Honora Edgeworth and the 'experimental science' of education
Profession and occlusion: Hannah More's 'vital Christianity'
Clearing out the 'rubbish': Elizabeth Hamilton's domestic philosophy
'The spirit of industry': Maria Edgeworth's object lessons