University of Notre Dame

File(s) under embargo

Patchwork Fictions: Addressing Disruption in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century British and French Women’s Fiction

posted on 2024-03-25, 02:18 authored by Anila Shree

Patchwork Fictions: Addressing Disruption in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth- Century British and French Women’s Fiction revisits works of English women authors such as Jane Barker and Eliza Haywood alongside the prose-fiction of influential French predecessors such as Madeleine de Scudéry and Charlotte de la Force. In considering this lesser-feted dialogue, Patchwork Fictions demands a renewed historiography of women’s writing that acknowledges the longer history of prose fiction. In these writings, authors turn to patchwork— as a metaphor and as a method of writing— to respond to the seismic changes that occur in moments of historical disruptions such as war, environmental catastrophe, or scientific revolutions. Twentieth-century’s Anglo-centric and masculinist narrative of “the rise of the novel” blinded English literary studies to a dynamic, longstanding tradition of prose fiction. The neglect has had a far-reaching impact on our understanding of the value of these works— affecting, germane to my purposes, seventeenth-and eighteenth-century women’s writing which is often attacked for being ideologically garbled and sub-standard in relation to novelistic standards. Patchwork Fictions imagines the lines of continuity — formal, tropological, thematic, and ideological — that would have been possible to identify if the “novel” did not dominate critical discussion. “Patchwork” fictions defy linear plotting, critique causality, and develop politicized vocabularies of love and feeling. I posit “patchwork” fictions as a tradition of prose-fiction that is still alive in contemporary fiction but the term itself is borrowed from Jane Barker’s The Galesia Trilogy. In Barker’s original story, when a real fabric patchwork is being constructed, Galesia is invited to contribute her own patches of fabric to it. When Galesia’s trunk is brought to retrieve pieces of fabric, stories, poems, and pieces of writing are found instead. The resulting “patchwork” — the trilogy — contains women’s personal stories of love, death, and trauma that are stitched together to construct an imitable model that writers have continued to adopt when responding to disruptions. Patchwork Fictions preserves in its form the violence of historical-change and acknowledge the impossibility of linear, developmental, and totalizing narratives.


Date Modified


Defense Date


CIP Code

  • 23.0101

Research Director(s)

Margaret A. Doody


  • Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Level

  • Doctoral Dissertation

Alternate Identifier


OCLC Number


Program Name

  • English

Usage metrics



    No categories selected


    Ref. manager