The extent to which Victorian women writers studied classical texts and made use of them in their writing, has been seriously underestimated. The gendering of 19th-century classical studies as masculine is strongly reinforced by fictional accounts of girls who are denied the educational opportunities granted to their brothers, but the heroines' obvious inclination and potential for classical learning reflect those of their authors, who did learn Latin and Greek. Differing access to texts and tuition made women's responses to the classics distinctive: female classicists did not spend much time composing prose or verse in the classical languages or analysing grammar, but concentrated on translating and understanding Greek and Latin texts. The licensed acquisition of a kind of knowledge, which remained overwhelmingly associated with masculine freedom and authority was a uniquely empowering experience for intelligent girls: some degree of classical education often goes together with successful literary ambitions for women writers.
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