Student Studies Stereotypes of Women in 17th Century Literature

HIGH POINT, N.C., Nov. 21, 2014 – Sarah Patterson, senior at High Point University, recently presented a research paper at the 40th Annual Society for Comparative Literature and the Arts, a national conference for scholars working in literature. The conference was held at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Patterson’s paper titled, “The Murderous Libertines of Aphra Behn,” explores the texts of 17th century novelist Aphra Behn, who challenged the contemporary construction of women as superficial, wealth-hungry and materialistic. Patterson examined how cultural pressures, such as marriage and virtue, constrained women into this narrow stereotype throughout the ages.

In her paper, Patterson analyzes two female characters from Behn, and suggests that Behn’s writing illustrates a darker side of women that would be unleashed if they were not liberated from the oppressive constraints of society. Such research is relevant considering the large portions of populations around the world still oppressed and stereotyped based on their gender, sex and culture.

“Behn’s writing, although a warning for women and men of the 17th century against stereotypes, still teaches us today a lesson of why these constraints are dangerous,” says Patterson.

Patterson developed her research under the mentorship of Dr. Laura Linker, assistant professor of English at High Point University. She also worked with HPU’s Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Works (URCW), a program that provides students with inquiry-based and creative opportunities that many students would only receive in graduate school. Patterson says HPU has provided her not only with the grants to support her research but has taught her the best ways to practice and produce research.

“The URCW program helped me learn how to discuss my ideas and papers with those who may not be as familiar with the literature I study,” says Patterson. “It also has provided me with the resources to present and market myself as a professional within a conference environment.”

As part of the grant from URCW, Patterson also completed a longer research project on the gothic characters in novelist Angela Carter’s work, “Fractured Selves: Dislocating Identity in Angela Carter’s Gothic Heroines,” which she will be presenting at the State of North Carolina Undergraduate Research and Creativity Symposium (SNURCS).

Patterson is an English literature major from Kinston. Upon graduating in December, she plans to attend Rosemont College in January to pursue a Master of Arts in publishing with a concentration in editorial work.

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