Women Peasant Poets in Eighteenth-Century England, Scotland, and Germany

Women Peasant Poets in Eighteenth-Century England, Scotland, and Germany

Milkmaids on Parnassus

Susanne Kord


Camden House



First comparative study of an unlikely group of authors: 18th-century women peasants.
This is the first comparative study of a highly unlikely group of authors: eighteenth-century women peasants in England, Scotland, and Germany, women who, as a rule, received little or no formal education and lived by manual labor, many of them in dire poverty. Among them are the English washerwoman Mary Collier, the English domestic servants Elizabeth Hands and Molly Leapor, the German cowherd Anna Louisa Karsch, the Scottish diarywoman Janet Little, the Scottish domestic servant Christian Milne, and the English milkmaid Ann Cromartie Yearsley. Their literature is here linked with one of the major eighteenth-century aesthetic trends in all three countries, the Natural Genius craze, which culminated in highland primitivism in Scotland and England, and in the Sturm und Drang in Germany. Kord's analysis of the peasant women's works and the bourgeois response enables us to find new answers to questions that have centrally influenced our thinking about what makes art Art. Kord's book provides a fresh look at some of this fascinating literature, and at the roles and attitudes of the lower classes and of women in the Art world of the day. It also advances a revolutionary thesis: that the eighteenth-century bourgeoisie established itself as the dominant cultural class not primarily, as is commonly held, in opposition to aristocratic culture, but more importantly through its dissociation from and suppression of lower-class art forms.

Susanne Kord is Professor and Head of the Department of German at University College London. Her book Little Detours: The Letters and Plays of Luise Gottsched was published by Camden House in 2000. Click here to read an interview with Susanne Kord (Word document 25KB)

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February 2003
9 black and white illustrations
339 pages
9x6 in
Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture
ISBN: 9781571132680
Format: Hardback
Camden House
BISAC LIT004290, LIT004120, LIT004170
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Aesthetic Evasions and Social Consequences
1: Back to Nature: Bourgeois Aesthetic Theory and Lower-Class Poetic Practice
2: The Wild and the Civilized: Poet Making
3: The Life as the Work
4: A Literature of Labor: Poetic Images of Country Life
5: Inspired by Nature, Inspired by Love: Two Poets on Poetic Inspiration
6: Of Patrons and Critics: Reading the Bourgeois Reader
Conclusion: On the Gender and Class of Art
Appendix: Short Biographies of Peasant Women Writers
Works Cited


Kord's book is key reading for anyone interested in critically considering the influence of 18th-century aesthetic trends on literary history from a current perspective....[It] represents scholarship at its very best. GERMAN QUARTERLY

[A] pioneering systemtheoretical work... an intellectually challenging study which ... is throughout a pleasure to read. ARBITRIUM

All future considerations of the noncanonical or faux canonical in eighteenth-century studies, regardless of their national or generic focus, should engage with this bold and clearly argued book. EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY STUDIES

The great merit of Kord's excellent and highly recommended study is her thorough research and criticism of bourgeois aesthetics. She gives a voice to authors whom literary criticism has otherwise overlooked. GERMAN STUDIES REVIEW

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