This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Arbitress of Passion and of Contract: Eliza Haywood and the Legality of Love




Stuart, Lashea

Type of Degree





My dissertation is a cultural studies exploration of how the eighteenth-century British author Eliza Haywood legitimizes women’s presence in the legal landscape through illustrations of women’s experiences with contract, property, and marital law. Through an interrogation of the nexus of the legal/commercial with the personal, Haywood reveals the gaps in the social and sexual contract, and the contradictions of the patriarchal system are laid bare. I am concerned with the ways that Haywood explores the sexual and social contract and women’s position in relation to contract. Through contract, patriarchy is created and maintained, and Haywood often complicates issues of contract and patriarchy by creating characters who occupy positions that are difficult to define. By addressing issues which were foremost in the public mind, Haywood creates timely, important novels which insert women’s voices, women’s questions into debates over the Marriage Act, women’s separate property, and domestic violence. Eliza Haywood was an important participant in public sphere hegemonic negotiation about women and in the debates over women’s rights within the social contract and within marriage contracts. Haywood sees herself as an author who directly addresses women’s issues, and, through her novels, she enters the conversation concerning women’s subjectivity, the Marriage Act, and the inadequacies, even outright absences, of the law. Haywood was well aware that there was yet no real solution in the culture for a number of the issues she dramatizes in her novels, but her texts address the emotions and concerns women experienced as they negotiated their world and emphasize the need for real legal representation for women.