Women's Time and Work-Discipline: or, the Secret History of ‘Poor Maria’

Carol Watts

in The Cultural Work of Empire

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2007 | ISBN: 9780748625642
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748671717 | DOI:
Women's Time and Work-Discipline: or, the Secret History of ‘Poor Maria’

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This chapter reviews the wandering of Laurence Sterne's potent figure of ‘poor Maria’, as a sign of the disciplinary production of ‘women's time’ and the violence of primitive accumulation. Maria appears to owe even more to the narrative of the sentimental magdalen. The magdalen was a significant figure of institutionalised concern, the object of a mid-century notion of national security. The aim of magdalen narrative is to chart the loss and redemption of a woman's virtue. Mary Collier's ‘A Woman's Labour’ can be read as dramatising a struggle with the imposition of women's time, revealing aspects of its secret history. This poem memorialises a point of struggle, in the terms not of singular suffering but of a collectivity — the daughters of Danaus — who turn the violence back on the culture from whence it came. There is a utopian dimension to Mary Wollstonecraft's critique of the brutalities of women's time.

Keywords: poor Maria; Laurence Sterne; women's time; violence; magdalen; Mary Collier; A Woman's Labour; Mary Wollstonecraft

Chapter.  22181 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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