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Material TransgressionsBeyond Romantic Bodies, Genders, Things$
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Kate Singer, Ashley Cross, and Suzanne Barnett

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781789621778

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789621778.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 17 April 2021

‘The Redundancy of Copious Nothings’

‘The Redundancy of Copious Nothings’

Fictional Offspring, Or, the Reproductions of Female Vanity

Chapter:
(p.153) Chapter Six ‘The Redundancy of Copious Nothings’
Source:
Material Transgressions
Author(s):

Mary Beth Tegan

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.3828/liverpool/9781789621778.003.0007

Eighteenth-century critics commonly used birth topoi to ridicule writing they believed to be uninspired or imitative, but their attacks on the bad form and excesses of women’s novels were particularly pointed. Novels were not so much authored as begotten—through suspect feminized spaces like the circulating library and the automatic reproduction of formulaic fiction. Such judgments were felt keenly by women writers, as evidenced by Frances Burney’s anxiety about the fate of her second offspring, Cecilia, and her prefatory allegory of authorial corruption at the Temple of Vanity. Vanity, it was suggested, was not only the motivating force behind women novelists’ endeavors, it might also be fostered through the reading of sentimental fiction. This essay explores the transmission of affect between women readers and writers, reframing the creative and destabilizing powers of vanity to argue that copious nothings divert readers and writers’ attention from domestic cares, disrupting the projections of masculine prerogative.

Keywords:   Affect, Birth topoi, Formula, Imitation, Vanity, Women’s novels

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