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Colette Davies

Languages and Literature, University of Nottingham

Thesis title:

The Minerva Press, Women Writers and the Literary Marketplace, 1770-1820.

The novels and women writers of the Minerva Press have often been dismissed as lowbrow and valueless. My thesis contributes to a new wave of scholarship which analyses and understands the value of the Minerva Press and its women writers in the formation of the Romantic-era novel as well as the Romantic-era literary marketplace. My study of the Press will shed important new light on interactions between authors, publishers and readers, and between culture, politics and society.

            Building on Brewer’s (1997) claim that ‘the ways in which the arts worked in eighteenth-century England are often best understood…through…those we have now largely forgotten’, my research explore novels written for the Minerva Press by a range of neglected professional women writers (e.g. Meeke, Helme, Charlton). These works contain politically-loaded characters, scenes and debates, and thus shed light on how women writers responded to a politically turbulent context.  By analysing how the Minerva Press and its authors participated in wider literary networks (e.g. with publishers William Lane and John Murray, J.F. Hughes and Henry Colburn) I explore how they transformed the market for fiction in 1770-1820. I will expand current thinking by recasting Minerva Press novels as dynamic vehicles of social commentary, whose authors made inroads into a male-dominated literary marketplace.

            This project addresses the following key research questions: How did the literary marketplace change between 1770-1820? How did the Minerva Press impact on this? Who were the Minerva Press writers? What socio-political debates did their novels engage with and why? Why was there a divide between contemporaneous critics’ and readers’ reactions to the Press? Does this account for its subsequent neglect?

            My thesis builds on my longstanding interest in women writers, fostered and developed throughout my academic career in by BA Hons English (University of Nottingham, 2011-14) and my MA English Literature (University of Nottingham, 2016-17). It draws on my Master’s dissertation in which I focused on the literary lives and interactions of Mary Wollstonecraft and Amelia Opie: a study which provided foundational work regarding the literary marketplace and print culture in 1780-1815. 

Research Area

  • Languages and Literature


Book Reviews: 

Colette Davies, Review of ELIZABETH A. NEIMAN, Minerva's Gothics: The Politics and Poetics of Romantic Exchange, 1780-1820 (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2019), 304pp. £70 hardback. 9781786833679. To be published in Romanticism, forthcoming. 

Colette Davies and Johnny Cammish, Review of Andrew O. Winckles and Angela Rehbein, eds., Women's Literary Networks and Romanticism: "A Tribe of Authoresses" (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2017). 314 pp. ISBN: ISBN: 9781786940605; 90 (hb). To be published in Romantic Textualities, forthcoming. 

'Romantic Novel', Year's Work in English Studies. Forthcoming 


'The Minerva Press, Jewels, and Authorship', British Association for Romantic Studies International Conference. University of Nottingham, July 2019. 

'Trembling Authors', School of English Symposium. University of Nottingham, May 2019.

''Lies and jokes' or 'proper vehicles'? Prefaces in Minerva Press novels', British Society for Eighteenth Century Studies International Conference. University of Oxford, January 2019.

'Deserving Authors? Minerva Press women writers applications to the Royal Literary Fund, 1790-1815', British Association for Romantic Studies Early Career and Postgraduate Conference. University of Glasgow, June 2018.

'Names on the Page: The Chameleonic Presentation of Female Author Figures on Minerva Press Title-Pages, 1785-1800'. M3C Research Festival. Birmingham, May 2018. 

'Throw Aside Your Pen'!: Mary Wollstonecraft's Reviews as Means of Instruction to Women Writers'. 'Romanticism Goes to University' Conference. Edge Hill University, May 2018. 

Public Engagement & Impact

Exhibition Curation: 

Co-curated the exhibition 'Romantic Facts and Fantasies' at the Lakeside Arts Centre. This role included selecting items and texts for display, researching and writing exhibition labels, boards, and casebacks, and organising publicity of the exhibition. September 2018-August 2019. 

Exhibition Tour: 'Romantic Facts and Fantasies' , Lakeside Arts Centre. Guided exhibition tour for 10 members of the Nottingham University of the Third Age (U3A) Group. July 2019. 

Public Talks: 

'Female Authors in the 1790s and their Portrayals of Authorship', Newstead Abbey Byron Society, September 2019. 

''A delightful burlesque, particularly on the Radcliffe style': Jane Austen and the Gothic Genre'. Jane Austen House Museum, October 2018. Attended by 30 members of the public and students from the University of Winchester. 


British Association for Romantic Studies (BARS). 

British Society for Eighteenth Century Studies (BSECS). 

Newstead Abbey Byron Society. 

Academic Services

British Association for Romantic Studies Postgraduate Representative, 2019-ongoing. 

I am one of two Postgraduate Representatives for the British Association for Romantic Studies. As part of this, I co-organise and co-direct the bi-annual Early Careers and Postgraduate Conference. 


Romantic Novel Contributor for the Year's Work in English Studies, 2019 - ongoing. 

Co-founder of UoN Romanticism Reading Group. 2017-2019.
I planned and organised monthly reading group sessions. 


BSECS Postgraduate Bursary Award. British Society for Eighteenth Century Studies. University of Oxford, January 2019.  

BARS ECR & PG Bursary, 'Romantic Novels 1818'. June 2018.

Best Postgraduate Course Representative 2018. Awarded by the University of Nottingham Students' Union, Education Network Awards, June 2018.

'Best Newcomer', informal prize of signed book. Awarded at 'Romanticism Goes to University', May 2018.



Conference Report: 'Factually a Fantastic Conference'. Report on the British Association for Romantic Studies International Conference. Available at: http://www.bars.ac.uk/blog/?p=2482. August 2019.