In this bold and provocative book, Laura Brown explores the representation of women in English literature from the Restoration to the fall of Walpole--a time during which an expansionist economic system was consolidated, a fertile ideology advocating a benevolent and progressive imperialism took root, and the slave trade was institutionalized. In this period, she maintains, the image of the female not only played a leading role in literary culture but also profoundly affected mercantile capitalist ideology.
After critical scrutiny of the traditional and revisionist positions in previous approaches to eighteenth-century studies, Brown examines the "feminization of ideology" in relation to notions of racial difference in Benn's Oroonoko and in works by Defoe and Swift. Chapters on the "she-tragedy" and on the writings of Pope focus on images of female sexuality and their relationship to violence against women, to female dressing and identity, and to contemporary notions of aesthetics, as well as to capitalism, commodification, and imperialism.
Redefining issues central to the interpretation of eighteenth-century literature, Ends of Empire will be important reading for students and scholars in the fields of eighteenth-century studies, literary theory and literary history, women's studies, Marxist criticism, and cultural and intellectual history.