The Sexuality Of History: Modernity And The Sapphic, 1565-1830

Paperback | December 5, 2014

bySusan S. Lanser

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The period of reform, revolution, and reaction that characterized seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe also witnessed an intensified interest in lesbians. In scientific treatises and orientalist travelogues, in French court gossip and Dutch court records, in passionate verse, in the rising novel, and in cross-dressed flirtations on the English and Spanish stage, poets, playwrights, philosophers, and physicians were placing sapphic relations before the public eye.            
 
In The Sexuality of History, Susan S. Lanser shows how intimacies between women became harbingers of the modern, bringing the sapphic into the mainstream of some of the most significant events in Western Europe. Ideas about female same-sex relations became a focal point for intellectual and cultural contests between authority and liberty, power and difference, desire and duty, mobility and change, order and governance. Lanser explores the ways in which a historically specific interest in lesbians intersected with, and stimulated, systemic concerns that would seem to have little to do with sexuality. Departing from the prevailing trend of queer reading whereby scholars ferret out hidden content in “closeted” texts, Lanser situates overtly erotic representations within wider spheres of interest.  The Sexuality of History shows that just as we can understand sexuality by studying the past, so too can we understand the past by studying sexuality.

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The period of reform, revolution, and reaction that characterized seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe also witnessed an intensified interest in lesbians. In scientific treatises and orientalist travelogues, in French court gossip and Dutch court records, in passionate verse, in the rising novel, and in cross-dressed flirtations ...

Susan S. Lanser is professor of comparative literature, English, and women’s and gender studies at Brandeis University. She is the author of Fictions of Authority: Women Writers and Narrative Voice and The Narrative Act: Point of View in Prose Fiction. 

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:344 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.9 inPublished:December 5, 2014Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022618773X

ISBN - 13:9780226187730

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

1. How to Do the Sexuality of History
2. Mapping Sapphic Modernity, 1565–1630
3. Fearful Symmetries: The Sapphic and the State, 1630–1749
4. The Political Economy of Same-Sex Desire, 1630–1765
5. Rereading the “Rise” of the Novel: Sapphic Genealogies, 1680–1815
6. Sapphic Sects and the Rites of Revolution, 1775–1800
7. “Sisters in Love”: Irregular Families, Romantic Elegies, 1788–1830

Coda: We Have Always Been Modern

Notes
Acknowledgments
Bibliography
Index

Editorial Reviews

“Lanser’s The Sexuality of History is a magisterial study of representations of sapphism across European society from the mid-sixteenth to the early nineteenth century. From this broad-ranging perspective she argues that the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries witnessed an intensified cultural interest in the sapphic—an interest, indeed, which was disproportionate to the small social threat actually posed by sapphism. . . . A meticulous and impressive work of historical literary criticism, The Sexuality of History will undoubtedly provide queer theorists and historians with much to reflect on.”