It has long been recognized that women writers played a significant role in the rise of the novel. This book is a systematic theoretical study of early modern women's fiction showing how and why it helped shape the novel's identity. While most studies of the origin of the novel begin with the 18th-century, Josephine Donovan traces women's literary traditions from the 15th- to 18th-centuries and focuses on the early modern period to make her point. She examines works in Italian, French and Spanish as well as English, highlighting the contributions of various women writers from Christine de Pizan to Jane Austen. Drawing upon the Mikhail Bakhtin, Iris Murdoch and contemporary standpoint theory, the author establishes the novel's character as an ethical case study. She then shows how early modern women drew upon the theological method of casuistry, which focuses upon ethical case studies, and the popular framed novelle genre to establish a feminist prosaics, which became an important factor in the novel's genesis.
JOSEPHINE DONOVAN is Professor of English at the University of Maine. She is the author of numerous books and articles in feminist critical theory, early modern women's literature, American women's literature, including Feminist Theory, and New England Local Color Literature. Most recently, she co-edited Beyond Animal Rights and Animals and Women.