Research Stream


Aleksondra Hultquist (2012, 2014)
The University of Melbourne

The Amatory Mode: Amatory Fiction and its Legacy, 1680-1760

This project links emotion theory and genre to early-modern concepts of the passions and feminine identity in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century in England. Descriptions of the genre of amatory fiction, short novellas authored in Britain by women between the 1680s and 1740s, typically argue that the sexual dynamics are political metaphors; ravished maidens are seduced in order to explore political disenfranchisement. But what if tales about love and sex are about love and sex? 

The Amatory Mode: Amatory Fiction and its Legacy, 1680-1760

“Lovers in a landscape” by Pieter Jan van Reysschoot (circa 1740. Yale Centre for British art. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Amatory Mode explores the significance of amatory fiction in shaping the development of the eighteenth-century novel by focusing on the significance of the passions.   Expanding the definition and authorship of amatory fiction from the Aphra Behn—Delarivier Manley—Eliza Haywood triumvirate to include Jane Barker, Penelope Aubin, Mary Davys, and Elizabeth Singer Rowe, Hultquist argues that these texts represent a female selfhood that is contingent on the heroines’ abilities to explore the passions, and thus their works of amatory fiction encourage complex responses to love, marriage, and the sexual double standard.   Such heroines are defined by their “amorous inclinations”—the ruling “passion” that leads them into a love story—and they challenge the virgin-whore dichotomy though candid explorations of female sexual desire.  While previous critics tend pass over the meaning of the love story itself and consider the amatory narrative as most consequential when it acts as a metaphor in cultural and political contexts, this project inverts this emphasis.  The Amatory Mode argues that the experience and navigation of extreme emotion and the subsequent maturity of characters after seduction or the threat of seduction, are exactly the focus of these tales.  When the passions are central to the text, it becomes clear that they were not only overbearing and disruptive, meant only to be tamed or yoked into submission, but also a path to self-knowledge. By looking at amatory fiction in the context of other writing ventures and climates, the treatment of amatory inclinations emerges as a constant. 


The Amatory Mode: Amatory Fiction and its Legacy, 1680-1760 (book manuscript)

“Adapting Desires in Behn’s The History of the Nun.”  Eighteenth-Century Theory and Interpretation. 56:4, forthcoming.
“Haywood’s Progress through the Passions,” in Passions, Sympathy and Print Culture: Public Opinion and Emotional Authenticity in Eighteenth-Century Britain.  Edited by Heather Kerr, David Lemmings and Robert Phiddian. Palgrave Macmillan, TBA.
“Bringing Order to the Passions: Eliza Haywood’s Fiction, 1720-1750.” In Spaces for Feeling: Gender, Affect and Sociability in Britain, 1650-1850.  Ed. Susan Broomall.  London: Routledge. Forthcoming, March 2015.
“Absent Children and the Emergence of Female Subjectivity in Haywood’s The British Recluse and The City Jilt,” in Spectacle, Sex and Property in Eighteenth-Century Literature and Culture.  Edited by Kamille Stone and Julie A. Chappell. New York: AMS., forthcoming.
"Novels, Philosophies, and Sex," ABO: Interactive Journal for Women in the Arts, 1640-1830: 4:1 (2014).
“Creole Space: Jamaica, Rehabilitation and British Literature,” in Gender and Space in Britain, 1660-1820.  Edited by Karen Gevirtz and Mona Narain.  Burlington: Ashgate, 2014. 33-48.
“Stuart Women Playwrights and Teaching British Women Playwrights.”  Essay-Review.  Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Theatre Research.  25: 2 (2010), 60-2. (published 2013)
“Matriarchs, Murderesses, and Coquettes: Investigations in Long-Eighteenth Century Femininities.” Essay-review.  The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 53 (2012), 119-24).
“Aphra Behn Online: Interactive Journal for Women in the Arts 1640-1830,” co-authored with Laura Runge.  In The Female Spectator 15 (2011), 3.
“Marriage in Haywood; or, Desire Rewarded,” in Masters of the Marketplace: British Women Novelists of the 1750s, edited by Susan Carlile.  Lanham, MD: Lehigh University Press, 2011. 31-46.
“Haywood’s Re-Appropriation of the Amatory Heroine in Betsy Thoughtless,” in Philological Quarterly 85 (2006), 141-165. (published 2008).
“Nearly Novel Beginnings.” Review of Novel Beginnings: Experiments in Eighteenth-Century Fiction, by Patricia Meyers Spacks. Essay-review.  The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation. 47 (2006): 8 pars.