English seminar: Hamish Wood, ‘The Non-Binary Miss Barnevelt and Jane Austen’s “Sir Charles Grandison, or: The Happy Man, A Comedy” (c. 1800)’
The notedly naïve and perhaps ad-hoc construction of Jane Austen’s c.1800 playlet ‘Sir Charles Grandison, or: The Happy Man, a Comedy’ obscures its valuable contributions to understandings of how dyadic gender roles were enforced, refused, or reified within the context of late-eighteenth-century conjugal organisations of kin. Particularly, despite Austen’s excision of Samuel Richardson’s arguably nonbinary figure of Miss Barnevelt within his 1753-1754 novel The History of Sir Charles Grandison, Austen’s play adaptation critically engages with the precarity of gender’s association to the body through its simple love-plot. By reading Austen’s play alongside Richardson’s novel, a new understanding of how a simultaneous manoeuvre of stabilisation and complexification of emergent gender identities is achieved. In her refusal to capitulate to heterosexist norms yet seeming hesitancy towards the nonbinary radicalism of Richardson’s source text, I argue that Austen attempts to broaden heterosexual possibilities through reintegration of their queer alterities.
Hamish Wood is a PhD candidate within the Department of English at the University of Sydney, Australia. His research focuses on identity and selfhood in the long-eighteenth-century novel-in-letters, with a particular interest in gendered embodiments. He has presented papers at the DNS XVII Seminar (2020) and SEASECS (2021) conferences on the early eighteenth-century novelist and dramatist Mary Davys, and more recently at ASECS (2022)
Contact: Liam Semler (firstname.lastname@example.org)