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Women Warriors in Romantic Drama
978-1-61149-430-3 • Hardback
December 2012 • $80.00 • (£49.95)
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978-1-61149-431-0 • eBook
December 2012 • $79.99 • (£49.95)

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Pages: 262
Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
By Wendy C. Nielsen
Literary Criticism | Drama
University Press Copublishing Division | University of Delaware
Women Warriors in Romantic Drama examines a recurring figure that appears in French, British, and German drama between 1789 and 1830: the woman warrior. The term itself, "woman warrior," refers to quasi-historical female soldiers or assassins. Women have long contributed to military campaigns as canteen women. Camp followers ranged from local citizenry to spouses and prostitutes, and on occasion, women assisted men in combat. However, the woman warrior is a romantic figure, meaning a fanciful ideal, despite the reality of women’s participation in select scenes of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. The central claim of this book is the woman warrior is a way for some women writers (Olympe de Gouges, Christine Westphalen, Karoline von Günderrode, and Mary Robinson) to explore the case for extending citizenship to women. This project focuses primarily on theater for the reason that the stage simulates the public world that female dramatists and their warriors seek to inhabit. Novels and poetry clearly belong to the realm of fiction, but when audiences see women fighting onstage, they confront concrete visions of impossible women. I examine dramas in the context of their performance and production histories in order to answer why so many serious dramas featuring women warriors fail to find applause, or fail to be staged at all. Dramas about women warriors seem to sometimes contribute to the argument for female citizenship when they take the form of tragedy, because the deaths of female protagonists in such plays often provoke consideration about women’s place in society.

Consequently, where we find women playing soldiers in various entertainment venues, farce and satire often seem to dominate, although this book points to some exceptions. Censorship and audience demand for comedies made producing tragedies difficult for female playwrights, who battled additional obstacles to fashioning their careers. I compare male (Edmund Eyre, Heinrich von Kleist) and female writers’ dramatizations of the woman warrior. This analysis shows that the difficult project of getting audiences to take women warriors seriously resembles women writers’ struggles to enter the ostensibly male domains of tragedy and the public sphere.
Wendy C. Nielsen is assistant professor of English and comparative literature at Montclair State University.
Part I: Female Fighters of the French Revolution
The Drama of Women and the French Revolution
Defining the Woman Warrior
Chapter Overview
Scope and Objectives
Chapter One: Charlotte Corday: the Assassin as Warrior
Monster or Maiden? Jean-Paul Marat’s Assassin in French Drama
Corday’s Fictional Love Life in Eyre’s The Maid of Normandy
The Bourgeois Daughter in Westphalen’s Charlotte Corday: a Tragedy
Chapter Two: Olympe de Gouges and the Fight for Citizenship
Violence in The Rights of Woman and Citizen
The Theatrical Battles of Olympe de Gouges
Female Soldiers in The Entrance of Dumouriez into Brussels, or the Sutlers

Part II: Staging Civic Empowerment
Chapter Three:The Just Warrior in Kleist and Günderrode
Kleist’s Penthesilea and the Barbarity of Amazon Warfare
Günderrode’s Hildgund: The Female Assassin as Folk Heroine
Chapter Four: Cross-dressing and Civic Virtue on the British Stage
British Military Culture and Breeches Roles
The Cross-Dressing Career of Dorothy Jordan
Burke, Wollstonecraft, and Inchbald: Debating Female Propriety in the Revolution
The Right to Self-Defense in Robinson’s Letter to the Women of England
Epilogue: Liberty and Marianne
Appendix A: Chronology
Appendix B: Dramas about Women Warriors, 1700-1900
Appendix C: Translation of Karoline von Günderrode's Hildgund