Art & Action: A Webinar Series on Literary Authorship, Politics, and Celebrity Culture

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art in asct

Female Authorship and Activism

21 August 2020, 3pm

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What did it mean for women writers in the long nineteenth century to engage in political activism? The speakers in this webinar will touch upon the en abling and disabling potential of celebrity for politically engaged female authors and reveal the tension they often experienced between respectability and transgression, public and private spheres, authorial self-assertion and self-denigration. Anna Paluchowska-Messing traces these dilemmas in the writings of Frances Burney (1752-1840). She demonstrates that while Burney acknowledged the leverage of her own celebrity status, she was also aware that by deploying her reputational capital beyond the sphere of literature, she transgressed contemporary gender norms and risked damaging, or even forfeiting, her authority. Eva Sage Gordon focuses on the careers of Nellie Bly (1864-1922) and Fanny Fern (1811-1872), two New York City-based female journalists who achieved considerable fame writing under pseudonyms and who delicately balanced their reputations in private with their public notoriety. Noting the centrality of technological advancements, the role of professional authorship, and the rise in daily penny newspapers in the nineteenth century, she examines the possibilities embedded in celebrity culture for transgressive gender performances by female writers.

Anna Paluchowska-Messing is a faculty member in the Institute of English Studies of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, where she holds the position of a Research Fellow and Lecturer in British Literature and Culture. Her book Frances Burney and Her Readers: The Negotiated Image is soon to be published by Peter Lang. Her research interests circle round the relationships between the novel and drama in the long eighteenth century, and authorial representations and self-presentations in the period.  

Eva Sage Gordon holds an MFA in Fiction Writing, an MA in English, and is currently a Ph.D. student in English at The Graduate Center, CUNY in New York City. Her research interests include life writing, celebrity studies, American culture, and women’s history.

This series of webinars is convened by Sandra Mayer (University of Vienna / Oxford Centre for Life-Writing, and Ruth Scobie (Mansfield College, Oxford,, and is supported by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) in collaboration with The Oxford Centre for Life-Writing (OCLW), Postcolonial Writers Make Worlds, and The Stephen Spender Trust.

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