Assistant Professor of English
bethany.williamson <at> biola.edu
(562) 903-6000 ext. 3215
Chawton House & environs (Hampshire, England)
17th- and 18th- century British literature; literary and critical theory; travel writing; early modern orientalisms; global commerce and empire
Orienting Virtue: Morals, Markets, and Global Modernity in English Literature, 1660-1800
While “virtue” remained a crucial sign of moral and material worth in the long eighteenth century, shifting politico-economic and religious structures propelled English writers to redefine virtue as a dynamic global concept, emerging via traffic between times and places, rather than as a timeless standard or as a gendered code. Compared to wealthier, more powerful Eastern empires, early modern England lacked empirical evidence of its virtue. As a result, writers such as Margaret Cavendish and Jonathan Swift turned to examples from the past (ancient Rome and Sparta) and the East (Arabia, China, and Japan) to imagine sustainable models of English virtue for the future. Because of England’s tenuous position on the world stage, writers represented virtue alternately as a future ideal, the action required to bring that ideal to fruition, and the divine favor or influence driving that action. Ubiquitous in the period’s novels, poems, political and scientific treatises, and travelogues, the rhetoric of virtue encoded and responded to the contradictions of global modernity.
“English Republicanism and Global Slavery in Henry Neville’s Isle of Pines.” Eighteenth-Century Fiction 27.1 (2014): 1-23.
Hughes Dissertation Fellow, SMU Department of English (2014-15)
Chawton House Library Visiting Fellow (May 2014)
Fellow, “Global Early Modern Studies” Seminar, SMU Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute (2013-14)
“Female Historians and the Pedagogy of Empire.” American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS). Los Angeles, CA, 19-21 March 2015.
“Margaret Cavendish and the Alchemy of the Arabian Sands.” Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts. Dallas, TX, 9-12 October 2014.
“Feminist Orientalism and Enlightenment England’s Quest for Eden.” Modern Language Association. Chicago, IL, 9-12 January 2014.
“Courts, Cabals, and Coffeehouses: Female Space and Feminist Orientalism in Delarivier Manley’s New Atalantis and Mary Wortley Montagu’s Turkish Embassy Letters.” ASECS. San Antonio, TX, 22-25 March 2012.
“Monsters in Utopia: Benevolence and Boundaries in Sarah Scott’s Millenium Hall.” British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. Oxford, England, 6-8 January 2012.