May 30, 2023

Foss Presents Paper at British Women Writers Conference

On June 23, Professor of English Chris Foss presented a paper titled “Ann Yearsley, Earl Goodwin, and the Politics of Romantic Discontent” at the 25th meeting of the British Women Writers Conference, held this year at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

There is a dearth of substantial critical studies of Earl Goodwin in general, and while the few out there have helpfully illuminated the play’s representation of the historical plight of women and the poor during Anglo-Saxon times, as well as its application to their predicaments in England and France during the end of the 18th century, this important tack has left unexplored the ways in which Yearsley also is clarifying and extending her anger and frustration about the class- and gender-based discrimination she experienced firsthand in the fallout with her mentor Hannah More over the profits from her first book.

Foss’ paper fills this gap, explicating the many ways in which Earl Goodwin represents, on one level, her ongoing response to the defamation she suffered in the wake of More’s public campaign to ruin her reputation. The paper also encourages a re-visioning of the overtly personal rejoinders to More as already reflective of her discontent with economic, political and social injustice. That is, documenting the inextricability of the play’s explicit social and political critiques with Yearsley’s ongoing response to the More fiasco in fact reinforces the extent to which her more familiar initial reactions are as fundamentally politically as they are personally motivated.