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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Arts
December 8, 2016
Canadian Excellence


Emma Courtney

Mary Hays.  Memoirs of Emma Courtney.  Ed. with an introduction by Eleanor Ty.  Oxford:  Oxford World's Classics, 2000.  (First ed. 1996)

Mary Hays

Memoirs of Emma Courtney

Edited with an Introduction by Eleanor Ty

"I feel that I am neither a philosopher, nor a heroine -- but a woman, to whom education has given a sexual character."

Emma Courtney is a passionate young woman who questions conventional ttitudes by ardently pursuing the man she loves. The Memoirs is one of the most articulate expressions of the frustrations of a woman confined by society’s expectations of appropriate conduct and behaviour in love and marriage. For Mary Hays, the laws of late eighteenth-century English society have ‘enslaved, enervated, and degraded woman.’

First published in the turbulent decade following the French Revolution, Memoirs of Emma Courtney is partly autobiographical and is based on Hays’s own struggle with romance and Enlightenment philosophy. A key sentimental novel it also embraces other genres such as life writing, the epistle, and the philosophical essay. A feminist and ardent disciple of Mary Wollstonecraft, Hays reveals the lamentable gap between "what women are" and "what women ought to be."

Introduction / Textual Note/ Bibliography/ Chronology/ Explanatory Notes

ISBN 0-19-283729-X