Skip to main content

Alexandra Collinson

Alexandra Collinson

Doctoral Student in Eighteenth-Century Literature.

Email: a.collinson1@ncl.ac.uk

Supervisors

Dr Laura Kirkley and Professor Kate Chedgzoy 

Research project

The Whores’ Revolution: Sex Work and Feminism in Eighteenth-Century Literature

 My thesis contends that revolutionary feminists were not the only female writers to intervene in the patriarchal domain of late eighteenth-century politics. It argues that sex workers — individuals impacted by converging factors of race, gender and class — made vital contributions to feminist discourses on women’s nature and social role in memoirs and legal testimonies published during this period. The perspectives of sex workers like Margaret Leeson and Anne Sheldon converge with, and complicate, those of Marie-Madeleine Jodin, Olympe de Gouges and Mary Wollstonecraft, writers who, in their quest to liberate women from social subordination, condemned female sexual expression, and perceived prostitutes as little more than symptoms of womankind’s sickness under the weight of patriarchal hegemony. Sex worker writers challenge these ideologies by providing fresh, intersectional insights into female education, sexual agency, and male violence in this period.

 This is a project of recognition, one that highlights the importance of listening to female voices from a range of backgrounds on the social issues that impacted women in the eighteenth century. Some of the most transformative, and fruitful, aspects of progress emerge from investigating elements of tension and discord between women’s voices; by exploring these sticking points, I hope to enrich scholarship on the history of feminist thought with new, intersectional meaning.

Research interests

  • feminist literature and women’s life writing in the eighteenth century
  • issues surrounding race, gender, and class
  • representations of sexual violence and consent
  • representations of female sexuality and sex work
  • representations of maternity and motherhood

Research activities

Awards

 As an undergraduate at Newcastle in 2018, I was awarded the Spence Watson prize for Best Overall Performance in Literature, having achieved the highest degree result for this subject in the School of English. I achieved a mark of 92% for my dissertation, Advocating Silence, Advocating Violence: Rape Culture in the Memoirs of Miss Arabella Bolton (1770), which was commended for the School of English’s Dissertation Prize. I am currently revising this essay for publication in an academic journal.

 I achieved a Distinction in my Research Masters (MLitt) at Newcastle, which was funded by the School of English's Masters Scholarship Award. My research projects, predominantly focused on the lives of eighteenth-century sex workers, included:

  • Harriot’s Absence: Race, Gender and Sex Work in Nocturnal Revels (1779)
  • Stories of Shame: Virtue, Violence and Trauma in The Histories of Some of the Penitents in The Magdalen House (1760)
  • Making Pacts with the Patriarchy:  Self-Possession and Subjectivity in  An Apology for the Life of George Anne Bellamy (1785) and the Memoirs of Mrs Margaret Leeson (1795-97)

My PhD project is funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council Northern Bridge Studentship.

Research groups and outreach projects

 I belong to the Middle Modern research group, and attend the North East Forum for Eighteenth Century and Romantic Studies.

 In 2019, I participated in an outreach project at Hotspur Primary School alongside Dr Stacy Gillis and Dr Ruth Connolly, which focused on the life and work of the seventeenth-century writer Margaret Cavendish. I led a team of undergraduate students in creating and delivering a workshop on feminism to year six students. Indeed, much of my research activities are interested in the ways in which eighteenth-century / feminist studies resonate in the modern world, forging connections between women’s lives in the past and present.

 My work adopts a ‘strategically anachronistic’ approach (Hall, 1995). Mindful of crucial socioeconomic contrasts, and undertaking careful historical research to develop my understanding of these specific contexts, I move beyond strict historicist boundaries, resisting the position that women of the past are estranged from women of the present by interweaving my analysis with interdisciplinary, intersectional feminist theory.

Academic background

  • BA English Literature, Newcastle University
  • MLitt Eighteenth-Century Literature, Newcastle University