Before Jane Austen's novels explored heroines in English society, writers Sarah Fielding and Jane Collier dared to provide commentary on gender and education through self-conscious narratives. Published in 1754 in five parts and divided into three volumes, The Cry stands as one of the most distinctive and intriguing works by women during the florescence of their writing in eighteenth-century England.
Strikingly experimental -- mixing fiction and philosophy, drama and exposition, satire and irony, and singular and choral voices -- The Cry revolves around a main character, Portia, who tells a series of stories to an audience that includes Una, the allegorical representation of truth, and "The Cry" itself, a collection of characters who serve as a kind of Greek chorus. A story about the story-making female subject, the novel serves as a catalyst to convey that women are capable of doing all of the things that men can do -- discuss ethics, learn, and think rationally -- and should be allowed to do these things publically. Throughout, editor Carolyn Woodward offers essential historical and editorial context to the work, demonstrating that this novel continues to facilitate discussions about women and public life.
"Carolyn Woodward's edition of The Cry offers not only an accessible modern edition of this historical work, but a thoroughly researched critical introduction and a full set of annotations that show the deeply learned quality and astonishing reach of Fielding and Collier's writing. For feminist scholars and historians, her editorial effort here can hardly be overstated." -- Ruth Salvaggio, author of Hearing Sappho in New Orleans: The Call of Poetry from Congo Square to the Ninth Ward
"[It is] but a study of something closer to home: female psychology and the workings of the "inward mind", the relationship between the intellect, the passions and the moral sense in women, and an exploration -- as Carolyn Woodward argues in the introduction to her excellent new scholarly edition -- -of women's capacities as "actors and speakers" in civil society." -- London Review of Books