Luise Mühlbach’s Aphra Behn (1849): Auto/Biography of a Woman Artist


This article explores the liberal German author Luise Mühlbach's fictional biography of the English Restoration author, Aphra Behn, England's first professional woman writer, as an autobiographical and aesthetic statement. Previous critics have analyzed Aphra Behn as a social novel and historical novel. Exploring this text as an artist novel and examining the intersections between artistic and historical discourses can shed light on Mühlbach's artistic identity. Mühlbach constructs an authorial profile for her female artist as politically engaged and socially critical, that also inscribes her own self-representation or authorial persona as a socially committed woman artist. Mühlbach combines the ideals of engaged, activist artistry with Romantic, transcendent concepts of divinely inspired creativity to legitimize female artistic activity and to criticize gender relations in the literary marketplace that result in the self-alienation of the woman artist. Mühlbach problematizes the connection between sexuality and creativity in the female artist's subjectivity to highlight the materiality of the female body and the economic and psychosocial effects of prejudice against women writers. Through the engaged artist persona Mühlbach asserts the authority to reinterpret Behn's controversial personal and literary reputation.


Modern and Classical Languages

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sexual double standard, woman writer, sexual revolution, persona criticism, female artist

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