Alice McGrath is a Ph.D. Candidate in English at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on eighteenth-century British fiction and the relationship between narrative form, gender and sexuality, and the material text. At the form she will be completing her dissertation, “Patchwork Fictions: Imagining Intimacy Beyond the Marriage Plot.” She currently serves as Senior Fellow and Project Manager for the Early Novel Database, a descriptive metadata project that charts the material and narrative contingencies of eighteenth-century fiction.
2015—2016 Forum on Sex
PhD Candidate, English
University of Pennsylvania
2015-2016 PHF Graduate Research Assistant
Patchwork Fictions: Imagining Intimacy Beyond the Marriage Plot
The eighteenth-century development of domestic fiction—novels focused on women’s concerns, courtship, and home life—has been linked to the historical transformation of the cultural role of marriage and the rise of heterosexuality. I argue that these teleological models distort our picture of eighteenth-century fiction, obscuring plots and texts that depicted non-conjugal modes of kinship and sexuality. Instead, “patchwork fictions” use discontinuous narratives to imagine alternatives in terms of social reproduction, community, and fantasy—disaggregating pleasure and influence from heterosexual consummation. Drawing from queer theory, McGrath reads the work of several women writers whose narrative experiments proposed new possibilities for sociality and attachment.