Reforming and Informing Gender: How the Female Tatler Complemented Addison and Steele

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Title: Reforming and Informing Gender: How the Female Tatler Complemented Addison and Steele
Author: Ackermann, Nicole
Advisors: John Morillo, Committee Chair
Antony H. Harrison, Committee Member
Sharon Joffe, Committee Member
Abstract: This paper considers how the rhetorical precedent set by Joseph Addison and Richard Steele's Tatler and Spectator influenced one of eighteenth-century London's lesser-known periodicals, the Female Tatler. In order to survive within the male-dominated literary marketplace, the Female Tatler 'complemented' the strategy of the more popular, better respected Tatler and Spectator by utilizing similar rhetorical practices. These practices emphasized the period's emerging natural, sexualized notion of gender which defined masculinity and femininity as directly oppositional; thereby aiding in the fashioning of increasingly polarized spheres of male and female activity. The intention of the male-focused Tatler and Spectator was to politely reform the manners and morals of a society recently corrupted by the false ethics of materialism. The Female Tatler effectively imitated this goal of revising aesthetic and cultural tastes, though in a more female-focused manner: utilizing and encouraging a unique discourse contingent upon, what were suggested to be, inherent female characteristics, interests and behaviors. The gender ideology put forth by Addison and Steele and then reinforced by the Female Tatler placed men and women in complementary roles in relation to the well-being of one another — much like the complementary relationship between the three periodicals. Rhetorically, they characterize natural and unnatural masculinity and femininity according to a set of cultural values which make each optimally productive within their given sphere of activity. Ideal maleness was ultimately constructed in terms of a man's ability to identify with, and therefore navigate the public realm of commerce and exchange, while ideal femaleness was constructed in terms of a woman's ability to perpetuate and benefit from a man's success. Though the Female Tatler was stylistically different from the Tatler and the Spectator, it nevertheless fashioned the period's natural, sexualized notion of gender, which Addison and Steele contended to be the most civilizing for society, by capitalizing upon the use and production of sexually differentiated rhetoric.
Date: 2006-05-08
Degree: MA
Discipline: English

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