This introductory chapter discusses the increased participation of women in print culture, as both writers and readers, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Such participation was facilitated and conditioned by a cultural revolution interacting with the political, economic, and commercial revolutions of the time. Print enabled women to participate in the cultural revolution, and thus in public political life, without relinquishing the feminine character of ‘domestic woman’. However, the association of women and novels was paradigmatic for the ‘problem’ of the woman writer in the late 18th-century cultural revolution. This ‘problem’ was greatly complicated during the last decade of the century, for the French Revolution had a catalysing and divisive effect on every aspect of the cultural revolution in Britain, including the social and cultural importance of ‘domestic woman’ and the gendering of writing.
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