Holm Gives Study of 18th Century Marriage Plot New Twist and Publishes the Results

Posted on 9/19/2017 12:34:00 PM

Melanie Holm, English professor, has published an article titled, “Taking the Marriage Plot Online: Eighteenth-Century Gender Play and the Digital Native,” In the Interactive Journal for Women in the Arts, 1660-1830 Volume 7.1 (Spring 2017). Online.

Starting from the premise that, “When we teach the gendered dynamics of courtship and the marriage plot of eighteenth-century novels, we often describe the culture as a ‘marriage market,’” Dr. Holm describes what happened when she asked students to take this market online, depicting eighteenth-century characters through twentieth- and twenty-first century online-dating templates.

How would a match between Colonel Brandon and Marianne Dashwood play out on Match.com? How would Mr. Trueworth flaunt his merits on Match.com? Would eHarmony have matched Evelina and Lord Orville? Would Fantomina fire it up on Tinder? 

Focusing on expressing the different criteria for men and women expressed in the novels, students created profiles that imagined how characters would portray themselves online in hopes of attracting the best mate.

By asking students to unpack characters and plot conventions in this way, Holm hypothesized that they would pay enthusiastic attention to the gender expectations for men and women interrogated in these plots. By incorporating quotations from the texts both into the design of the profile templates and the character profiles, that they would develop a sensitivity for the gendered markings of language and gesture in novels written by women in the long eighteenth century.

Holm goes on to discuss the technological and creative development of the project, and display its results, as well as suggest ideas for improving the execution the projects and for developing other projects that make use of open technologies in order to stimulate students to think about how we express gender stereotypes and expectations in the eighteenth century and our own.

Department of English