The literary ‘Me Too’ of the 18th century: Pamela L. Cheek on women’s writing and the capital of virtue

Author: Gráinne McEvoy

Pamela L. Cheek By Jennifer Mayo UND

On November 3, 2022, Pamela Cheek, professor of French and comparative literature at the University of New Mexico, delivered a lecture and accepted the 2022 Laura Shannon Prize in Contemporary European Studies, administered by the Nanovic Institute for European Studies. Cheek was awarded the humanities cycle prize for her book “Heroines and Local Girls: The Transnational Emergence of Women’s Writing in the Long Eighteenth Century,” published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2019.

In a public lecture titled “The Literary ‘Me Too’ of the 18th Century: Women’s Writing and the Capital of Virtue,” Cheek gave a fascinating, erudite account of how women writers navigated a literary marketplace that was in formation, developing distinctive codes and narrative devices that allowed them to articulate, among other things, women's experience of sexual violence and rape. While the promise of this 18th-century literary means of articulating what we now call “gaslighting” was ultimately lost, Cheek explained that these codes left a powerful legacy for understanding power and narratives — how we tell stories and who gets to tell stories — in the past and today. 

The Nanovic Institute has prepared an event brief of Cheek's lecture. A recording of the lecture, plus a photo gallery of the Laura Shannon Prize lecture and presentation, are available here. 

Read the Event Brief