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Ruth Perry
Ann Friedlaender Professor in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
Office: 14N-415  .  PBX: 617-253-8876  .  Email: rperry@mit.edu

Ruth Perry

Teaching Areas: Fiction, the English novel, eighteenth-century British literature; Jane Austen; feminist literary theory; eighteenth-century British women's writing; folk music of the British Isles and North America; balladry.

Ruth Perry has long interested herself in eighteenth-century English literature and culture, women's writing, and feminist theory and has lectured all over the world on these subjects. She was the founding director of the MIT Women's Studies program; in 2000 she was elected president of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. The author of numerous books and articles, many reprinted in anthologies, she has written on canonical figures as Pope, Sterne, Richardson, and Austen as well as on contemporary women writers such as Grace Paley and Mary Gordon. She has been awarded grants by the NEH and the NSF for projects on the social context of science, as well as fellowships from Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Bunting Institute, the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Rockefeller Foundation at Bellagio, and most recently a senior NEH research fellowship. She has also been honored as a MacVicar fellow at MIT in recognition of her contributions to undergraduate teaching.

Her books include Women, Letters, and the Novel (1980); Mothering the Mind: Twelve Studies of Writers and Their Silent Partners (1985); an edition of George Ballard's 1752 Several Ladies of Great Britain (1984); The Celebrated Mary Astell (1986); Novel Relations: The Transformation of Kinship in English Culture and Literature 1748-1818 (2004), and a scholarly edition of Charlotte Lennox's 1758 Henrietta (2008). She also guest edited a special double issue on "Ballads and Songs in the Eighteenth Century" for The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation in 2006, complete with musical illustrations, some of which she recorded herself.  She is completing a volume of essays on Jane Austen and has begun work on a biography of Anna Gordon Brown, an eighteenth-century singer of traditional ballads. A folksinger herself, her current research and teaching interests include the history of collecting, preserving, and performing folk music --particularly in eighteenth-century Scotland. Ruth Perry also loves to swim and the Z-center chose her as "Member of the Month" in January 2007 because of her faithful attendance at the pool.



2008 Henrietta, by Charlotte Lennox. Edited by Ruth Perry and Susan Carlile. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2008.
2006 Ballads and Songs in the Eighteenth Century. A special issue of The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 47, 2-3, (Summer/Fall 2006).
2004 Novel Relations: The Transformation of Kinship in English Literature and Culture 1748-1818. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
1990 Social Control and the Arts, ed. Susan Rubin Suleiman, Alice A. Jardine, Ruth Perry, Carla Mazzio. Cambridge: New Cambridge Press.
1986 The Celebrated Mary Astell: An Early English Feminist 1666-1731. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
1985 George Ballard, Memoirs of Several Ladies of Great Britain Celebrated for Their Skill in the Learned Language, Arts, and Sciences, ed. and intro. by Ruth Perry. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. With extensive bibliography.
1984 Mothering the Mind: Twelve Studies of Writers and Their Silent Partners, introduction by Ruth Perry and edited by Ruth Perry and Martine Brownley. New York: Holmes and Meier.
1980 Women, Letters, and the Novel. New York: AMS Press.


Selected Articles

2012 "The Printed Record of an Oral Tradition: Anna Gordon Brown's Ballads," Studies in Scottish Literature, 38, 1 (2012): 73-91. Link to article
2012 "The Famous Ballads of Anna Gordon, Mrs. Brown." Book Chapter in Volume Four: A Cultural History of Women in the Age of Enlightenment, ed. Ellen Pollack, Michigan State University, USA, 2012. Link to article
2011 "Brother Trouble: Murder and Incest in Scottish Ballads" in Sibling Relations and the Transformation of European Kinship 1300-1900, eds. Christopher H. Johnson and David Warren. Link to article
2010 "Self and Society: Attitudes towards Incest in Popular Ballads," in A Cultural History of the Human Body in the Enlightenment, ed. Carole Reeves (New York and Oxford: Berg, 2010) pp. 193-211 and notes 252-53. Link to article
2010 "War and the Media in Border Minstrelsy: The Ballad of Chevy Chase." Ballads and Broadsides in Britian, 1500-1800. Ed. Patricia Fumerton, Anita Guerrini, and Kris McAbee. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2010. p. 251-269. Link to article
2009 "The Morality of Orality: Grace Paley's Stories." Contemporary Women's Writing 3.2 (2009): 190-196. Link to article

“Family Matters: Kinship in Jane Austen,” Blackwell’s Companion to Jane Austen, ed. Claudia Johnson. Blackwell and Co., 2009, pp. 321-31. Link to article


“The Finest Ballads”: Women’s Oral Traditions in Eighteenth-Century Scotland,” Eighteenth-Century Life 32, 2 (Spring 2008):81-97.


“Brother Trouble: Murder and Incest in Eighteenth-Century Ballads,” in Ballads and Songs in the Eighteenth Century, special issue of The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 47, 2-3 (Summer/Fall 2006): 289-308.


"Kinship in Clarissa," in Approaches to Teaching the Novels of Samuel Richardson, ed.Lisa Zunshine and Jocelyn Harris (New York: MLA, 2006)

"Home Economics: Representations of Poverty in Eighteenth-Century Fiction," in Blackwell's Companion to Eighteenth-Century Fiction, ed. Paula Backscheider and Catherine Ingrassia (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, Co., 2006)


"Mary Astell and the Enlightenment," in Women, Gender and Enlightenment, ed. Sarah Knott and Barbara Taylor, Palgrave, 2005, pp. 357-70.


"Jane Austen, Slavery, and British Imperialism," Approaches to Teaching Austen's Emma, ed. Marcia McClintock Folsom, New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2004, pp. 26-33.

"The Sexual Politics of Emma," Approaches to Teaching Austen's Emma, ed. Marcia McClintock Folsom, New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2004, pp. 110-119.

Entry on Mary Astell in Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press.


"Sleeping with Mr. Collins," Originally published in Persuasions: Journal of the Jane Austen Society of America 22 (2000): 119-35, and reprinted in Jane Austen and Co., ed., Suzanne Pucci and James Thompson, SUNY Press, 2003, pp. 213-28.

Entry on Mary Astell in the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment.


"Engendering Environmental Thinking: A feminist analysis of the present Crisis," originally in The Yale Journal of Criticism 6 (Fall 1993), 1-16. Reprinted in Women, Science, and Technology, ed. Mary Wyer, Mary Barbercheck, Donna Glesman, Hatice Orun Ozturk, Marta Wayne (New York: Routledge, 2001): 302-11.


"Sleeping with Mr. Collins," Persuasions: Journal of the Jane Austen Society of America 22 (2000): 119-35.


"Fanciulle oneste e donne perdute: la figura della prostituta nel romanzo inglese del Settecento," Il delitto narrato al popolo: Immagini di giustizia e stereotipi di criminalita in eta moderna, ed. Roberto De Romanis e Rosamaria Loretelli (Palermo: Sellerio editore, 1999): 143-155.

"Good girls and fallen women: representations of prostitutes in eighteenth-century fiction," Narrating Transgression: Representations of the Criminal in Early Modern England (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 1999): 91-101.

"Defamiliarizing the Family, or Writing History from Literary Sources," Modern Language Quarterly 55 (December 1994), 415-427; reprinted in Eighteenth-Century Literary History: An MLQ Reader (Durham, and London: Duke University Press, 1999): 159-171.

"Clarissa's Daughters; or, The History of Innocence Betrayed. How Women Writers Rewrote Richardson," in Women's Writing in the Early Modern Period 1 (1), 5-24; reprinted in Clarissa and Her Readers: New Essays for the Clarissa Project, ed. Carol Houlihan Flynn and Edward Copeland (New York: AMS Press, 1999): 119-141.


"'Suis-je le gardien de ma soeur?': Freres et soeurs intellectuels en Angleterre au XVIIIe siecle" in L'Education des femmes en Europe et en Amerique du nord de la renaissance a 1848, ed. Guyonne Leduc (Paris: L'Harmattan, 1997): 279-96.


"Inventing a Feminist Institution in Boston: An Informal History of the Graduate Consortium in Women's Studies," NWSA Journal 8,2 (Summer 1996): 60-83.


"Postscript on the Public Libraries" in Profession 95, Journal of Modern Language Association: 48-50.

"I Brake for Feminists," Concerns 25,2 (Spring 1995): 21-34. Reprinted in Transformations 7,1 (Spring 1996): 1-13; also reprinted in Chinese volume on American feminism (2000).


"Austen and Empire: A Thinking Woman's Guide to British Imperialism," Persuasions 16 (December 1994), 95-106.


"Engendering Environmental Thinking: A Feminist Analysis of the Present Crisis," in The Yale Journal of Criticism 6 (Fall 1993), 1-16. Reprinted in Women, Science, and Technology, ed. Mary Wyer, Mary Barbercheck, Donna Giesman, Hatice Orun Ozturk, Marta Wayne (New York: Routledge, 2001): 302-11.

"Embodied Knowlege," in The Harvard Library Bulletin, n.s. 4 (1 & 2), 57-62.


1992 "A Short History of the Term 'Politically Correct,'" originally published in the Women's Review of Books (February 1992) and reprinted in Beyond Politically Correct: Towards a Politics of Understanding, ed. Pat Aufterheide, St. Paul, Minnesota: Graywolf Press, pp.71-79.


"Colonizing the Breast: Sexuality and Maternity in Eighteenth-Century England," Journal of the History of Sexuality 2 (2), 204-235. Reprinted in Eighteenth-Century Life 16 (n.s.1), 185-213 and reprinted in Forbidden History: The State, Society and the Regulation of Sexuality in Modern Europe, ed. John C. Fout (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1992).


"Mary Astell and the Feminist Critique of Possessive Individualism," Eighteenth-Century Studies 23 (3), 444-458.

"Women and Computers: An Introduction," with Lisa Greber, Signs 16 (1), 74-102; reprinted in Gender and Scientific Authority, ed. Barbara Laslett, Sally Gregory Kohlstedt, Helen Longino, and Evelynn Hammonds (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1996): 155-182.

"From Hard Drive to Software: Gender, Computers, and Difference," The Computer Cluster, edited Ruth Perry, Signs 16 (1), 74-173.


"Radical Doubt and the Liberation of Women," Eighteenth-Century Studies 18 (4), 472-494; reprinted in Feminist Interpretations of Rene Descartes, ed. Susan Bordo (University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999): 169-189.


"Anality and Ethics in Pope's Late Satires," British Journal of Eighteenth-Century Studies 4 (2) 139-55; reprinted in Pope, ed. Brean Hammond (New York and Harlow, Essex: Longman, 1996): 170-184.



Classes Taught


21L.001 Foundations of Western Culture: Masterpieces of Western Civilization

21L.003 Introduction to Fiction

21L.423J Folk Music of North America and the British Isles

21L.470 Eighteenth Century Literature: Travel Literature in Eighteenth-Century Britain

21L.471 Major English Novels: The Rise of the Novel

21L.473J Jane Austen: Texts and Contexts


Narratives of Kinship in Industrializing Societies (Graduate Consortium in Women's Studies - Radcliffe)

Women, Representation, and Music in Selected Folk Traditions of North America and the British Isles (Graduate Consortium in Women's Studies - MIT)

Ballads and Broadsides in Eighteenth-Century Culture (post-doc seminar at Folger Library, Washington, D.C.) [PDF]