Misogynous Economies: The Business of Literature in Eighteenth-Century Britain by Laura Mandell (review)
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

This need for clarification inevitably spills into Chapter 3, "Doctrine in the Problem Plays and Hamlet." It would help to know what he sees as some of the more important doctrines. We also could use a definition or two. In Chapter 5, for instance, we have the doctrine of"use" (110). Does that doctrine appear elsewhere ? I didn't find it. Also in this chapter, Charney tells how the duke in Measure for Measure is an "enemy oflove," which is die tide ofthat chapter. Is this a doctrine ? Chapter 3 is especially lively, however. Charney does literary criticism a service by showing how HamUt, while not a love tragedy, features disappointed love as an important element (another doctrine?). Too many ofCharney's paragraphs begin with a play title or act or scene rather than a topic or orientation. The plays should serve as support rather than as topics themselves. The final chapter, "Love and Lust: Sexual Wit," is provocative. When Charney makes the statement that "Once a boy reaches puberty, he is drawn into Original Sin" (196), he'd better have some convincing proof; and I believe he does. He also has prooffor the statement "There is an almost necessary burden ofmisogyny that accompanies heterosexual relations in Shakespeare"; but I believe his reasoning needs to go a bit farther, at least with HamUt. Laura Mandell. Misogynous Economies: The Business ofLiterature in Eighteenth-Century Britain. Lexington: The University Press ofKentucky, 1999. 228p. Marvin D.L. Lansverk Montana State University Laura Mandell's Misogynous Economies is an intriguing treatment of gender, literature , and ideology which employs familiar terms from cultural studies to revisit broad historical patterns, attempting to reshuffle the cause-effect relationships traditionally seen between them. To name die central one: Mandell argues that misogynist depictions in literature are not simply the direct result ofattempts to oppress women. Instead, at least throughout the eighteenth century, they are part ofa more complex ideological response to alienating socioeconomic changes occasioned by capitalism. Rather than a natural consequence ofunchanging human attitudes, unchanging itself, misogyny metamorphoses with society; and its story is in great part the story of the period. The result — what Mandell claims is the first sustained attempt to historicize misogyny, to see and combat it as unnatural — is a combination of high concept and textual commentary. Unfortunately, however, like iron filings around a bar magnet, the book remains too focused on 98 + ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW * SPRING 2001 each ofthese poles with not enough attention to the middle. While suggestive, at 1 58 pages the argument is ultimately too short to accomplish persuasively all that it sets out to do, although it does map out an agenda for future work. The high concept is established in the detailed introduction, which eventually yields up a new overarching historical narrative, Foucault fashion. Where one of Foucault's chiefinterestswas sexuality, the key terms hereare genderand misogyny, which are also to be seen as dense transfer points for culture and semiosis rather than essentialist givens. Also as in Foucault, the source ofMandell's favorite terms for treating dynamic social processes, material and ideal, is economics, itselfunderstood so broadly as to become more an engine ofanalogies than a precise economic theory. Thus, while treating the consequences ofcapitalism, her subject is not money and aggregate demand, but rather, as she puts it, the economies ofemotion , where she tracks changes in the structure of desire throughout the period necessary to usher in capitalist modes ofproduction. Advancing a blend offeminist psychoanalysis enacted at the cultural level and a structuralist reader-response criticism, Mandel's discussion posits a central binary opposition against which misogyny will be measured. She identifies two economies ofreading: sadomasochistic and sadistic. A sadomasochistic economy of reading, she says, is one ofunmitigated expenditure. The reader continues to invest without any specific returns, continuing to co-create with the author in a play ofpossible interpretations.This type ofreading emphasizes literariness, which Mandell defines using psychological terms from D.W. Winnicott, but which sounds much like Barthes' writerly (vs. readerly) and other post-structural distinctions emphasizing freeplay. A sadistic economy ofreading, on the other hand, is a good investment, one which does bring more returns than are spent, "the same sort...


pdf