Richard Steele's Female Readers and the Gender Politics of the Public Sphere in 'The Spectator'

Ryan Twomey, Daniel Carrigy


This article examines Richard Steele’s ‘The Spectator’ essays and the way in which Steele instructs and positions his female readers in the English public sphere. Steele’s encouragement of female agency and expression is fundamentally dependent upon whether readers are in the private or public realm. ‘The Spectator’ not only promotes women’s critical thinking and analysis of literature and the arts, it also advocates for their engagement in debates with men within the private sphere, even triumphing over men in said debates. However, in the masculine public sphere, ‘The Spectator’ delivers a profoundly different ideology, one in which women are dependent upon the assistance and intervention of men and are afforded significantly less agency and avenue for expression than they are in the home.

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