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Mary Poovey

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Mary Poovey

Mary Poovey is an American cultural historian and literary critic whose work focuses on the Victorian Era. She is currently Samuel Rudin University Professor in the Humanities at New York University, and Director of the Institute for the History of the Production of Knowledge. Her PhD was from the University of Virginia (1976). Poovey has taught at Johns Hopkins University, Swarthmore College, and Yale University.[1]


  • Proper women 1
  • Feminist readings 2
  • Works 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Proper women

In 1984 Poovery published The proper lady and the woman writer : ideology as style in the works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Jane Austen. Her book is based around the idea of a "Proper Lady" and she looks at the difficulties that these three important authors had in breaking free from this mould.[2]

Feminist readings

Poovey has been recognised as important in the work that she has done in feminist reading. She has looked at how the growth of women writing was a device for seeing their voices emerge.[3]

Poovey conducted a public re-evaluation in 1999 at the British Women Writers Conference as a theoretical exercise of a writers work. Poovey re-read the works of Ellen Pickering and decided that they were not worth reviving. This novelist's works had been popular in the 19th century but she considered the books to be over-complicated and lacking in innovation. She concluded that the only reason to re-read works like this was to confirm that the books that we had chosen to remember. like Jane Eyre and Mary Barton, are the best of their type.[4] Poovey used her re-reading of Pickering's novels to argue that not all writers need to be revived into the literary canon. Tamara Wagner went on to argue that this shows that we need to debunk our "history of reading these texts back from reality"?[4]


Her books include:

  • Proper Lady and the Woman Writer]. Chicago: U Chicago P, 1984.[2]
  • Uneven Developments: The Ideological Work of Gender in Mid-Victorian England. Chicago: U Chicago P, 1989
  • Florence Nightingale: Cassandra and other Selections from Suggestions For Thought. London: Pickering, 1991.
  • Making a Social Body: British Cultural Formation, 1830-1864. Chicago: U Chicago P, 1995.
  • A History of the Modern Fact: Problems of Knowledge in the Sciences of Wealth and Society. Chicago: U Chicago P, 1998.
  • The Financial System in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • Genres of the Credit Economy: Mediating value in Eighteenth and Nineteenth-Century Britain. Chicago: U Chicago P, 2008


  1. ^ Mary Poovey, homepage at NYU
  2. ^ a b Poovey, Mary (1985). The proper lady and the woman writer : ideology as style in the works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Jane Austen (Pbk. ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.  
  3. ^ Handler, Richard; Segal, Daniel (1999). Jane Austen and the fiction of culture : an essay on the narration of social realities (Updated ed.). Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 14.  
  4. ^ a b Wagner, Tamara. Antifeminism and the Victorian Novel. p. 25.  

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