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Pleasure and Gender in the Writings of Thomas More

Pursuing the Common Weal

By A. D. Cousins

Publication Year: 2010

Pleasure and Gender in the Writings of Thomas More argues that, from what appears to be his earliest nonpolemical work, “Pageant Verses,” until what we know to be his last, De tristitia Christi, More sees the will to pleasure as central to the experience of being human: as a primary human impulse or, at the least, a compelling power within the human consciousness. In tracing how More examines the will to pleasure in our lives, Cousins also examines More’s recurrent concern with gender’s inflecting and expressing this desire. More clearly views gender as potentially restrictive or empowering in many respects, which is discussed in relation to several of More’s texts.

Exploring pleasure and gender in relation to issues of the common good and of the (good) state, More probes how people make sense of chance (and, alternatively, how they do not), how friendship works interpersonally and beyond national boundaries, and what roles people play (as well as to what roles they can aspire). As Cousins asserts, pursuing the common weal was for More both necessary and desirable, and he himself pursued this on behalf of his country, the republic of letters, and the Church Militant.

Published by: Duquesne University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v

CONTENTS

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pp. vii-

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. ix-

For help of many kinds I am grateful to Michael Ackland, Helen and Neil Cadzow, Patrick Cheney, Jim and Maureen Cahillane, Robyn Carlisle, Conal Condren, the late Valerie Cousins, Mauro Di Nicola, Heather Dubrow, Geoff and Penny Hiller, Arthur F. Kinney, Philip Levine, Manfred and Janet Mackenzie, Germain Marc’hadour, Kathy Meyer, Clare Murphy, Dani and Tony Napton, Alison Scott, and the late Boyd Vickery. ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-9

There have been studies of Thomas More as the fashioner of an influential political fiction, as a historian, a devotional writer, a writer of religious polemic, a parent, and as many other things.1 Directly or otherwise, most of those studies have touched upon More’s views on the common weal, that is to say, on the common good and correlatively on the (good) state. None, however, has focused primarily and closely on More’s interpretations of the major cultural categories informing those views. ...

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1 Pleasure, Gender, and the Pursuit of the Common Weal

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pp. 11-35

To focus on More’s “Pageant Verses” is to study his first, formal representations of life in community and pursuit of the common good.1 Many years ago Samuel C. Chew briefly but influentially noted that the poem has links both with “ages of man” literature and with Petrarch’s portrayal of human life as caught in a series of “Triumphs.”2 ...

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2 Chance, Gender, Pleasure, and the Pursuit of the Common Weal

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pp. 37-62

The “Pageant Verses,” like Petrarch’s Trionfi, does not explore the power of chance over human life. There More was concerned with focusing on impulses that he represented as powerfully directing the individual, as all but irresistibly shaping the self. Further, he was concerned with their relationship to the forming and civilizing of the individual by education — and to the pursuit of the common weal. ...

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3 Being a Woman, Pleasure, and the Pursuit of Whose Common Weal?

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pp. 63-100

When considering pleasure and chance as aspects of human experience, More sometimes gendered them female; that is to say, at times he represented them by drawing from the mythographies of Venus and Fortune. But what did he suggest that actual women, as distinct from goddesses, were or should be or might become? How did he associate women who were not goddesses with issues of pleasure? ...

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4 Masculinity, Friendship, Pleasure, and the Pursuit of Which Common Weal?

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pp. 101-123

As the preceding chapter suggests, the portrayals of women in More’s writings are many sided and often ambiguous — for example, the desperate, flawed yet heroic motherhood of Queen Elizabeth in Historia Richardi Tertii and the rationally controlled but not passionless motherhood at which Hythloday glances now and then in his account of Utopian society. ...

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5 Role-Play, Masculinity, Pleasure — In and Beyond Pursuit of the Common Weal

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pp. 125-137

From the “Pageant Verses” to De tristitia Christi, that is, from probably his earliest extant work to certainly his last, More revealed his fascination with what he and so many of his contemporaries saw as the theatricality of human experience. In what follows I shall consider how selection, interplay, and performance of role dominate self-presentation in his A Dialogue of Comfort.1 ...

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CONCLUSION

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pp. 139-141

Throughout his nonpolemical writings More returns again and again to consideration of the will to pleasure. He evidently thought that not to recognize the will to pleasure’s preeminent and insistent power in one’s life is certainly to become its victim. One might well become its victim anyway, as he variously acknowledges, but understanding it at least means being able to contextualize it and creates the possibility of constraining or redirecting it, if necessary...

NOTES

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pp. 143-172

INDEX

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pp. 173-178


E-ISBN-13: 9780820705002
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820704388

Page Count: 185
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Medieval & Renaissance Literary Studies
Series Editor Byline: Albert C. Labriola

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Sex role in literature.
  • Pleasure in literature.
  • More, Thomas, Sir, Saint, 1478-1535 -- Political and social views.
  • Civil society in literature.
  • More, Thomas, Sir, Saint, 1478-1535 -- Criticism and interpretation.
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