FEMALE QUIXOTES: LENNOX’S AND AUSTEN’S APPROPRIATION OF JOHN LOCKE
Oliver, Erica P.
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The primary obstacle to analyzing the political and educational statements found in eighteenth-century women’s fiction is that all texts, fictional or not, were subject to intense scrutiny by the dominant culture, which disallowed women a political voice; therefore, most political or educational arguments authored by women are heavily obscured. This thesis seeks to contextualize female quixotic texts—namely Charlotte Lennox’s The Female Quixote and Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey—within the long eighteenth-century’s educational debates and to analyze each text’s veiled advocation for female learning. In so doing, John Locke’s notions concerning the tabula rasa, the conduct of the mind, and education are paramount because female writers, including Lennox and Austen, appropriated his individualistic theories to advocate for intellectual parity. When viewing the female quixotic tradition as a dialogue between female authors and contemporary educational debates, both The Female Quixote and Northanger Abbey signify an emerging ideology that both presents the flaws inherent in gendered education and also calls for more equitable female learning.