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Eighteenth-Century Studies 37.1 (2003) 123-129



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Sexual Diversions

George E. Haggerty
University of California, Riverside


Daffron, Benjamin Eric. Romantic Doubles: Sex and Sympathy in British Gothic Literature(Brooklyn: AMS Press, 2002). Pp. 200. $72.50.
Gordon, Scott Paul. The Power of the Passive Self in English Literature, 1640-1770(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002). Pp. 279. $60.00.
Kuchta, David. The Three-Piece Suit and Modern Masculinity: England 1550-1850(Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002). Pp. 299. $45.00.
Parker, Todd C. Sexing the Text: The Rhetoric of Sexual Difference in British Literature, 1700-1750 (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000). Pp. 218. $17.95.
Smith, Hilda L. All Men and Both Sexes: Gender, Politics, and the False Universal in England, 1640-1832(University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002). Pp. 235. $65.00 cloth. $19.95 paper.

The study of gender and sexuality in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries has come of age. After a series of impressive publications laying out the groundwork for advanced work in the field—books such as those by Emma Donohue, Andrew Elfenbein, Lillian Faderman, Jonathan Goldberg, George Haggerty, Cameron McFarlane, Stephen Orgel, Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, Kristina Straub, Valerie Traub, Randolph Trumbach, and Elizabeth Wahl—we now encounter a series of texts that are in a position to take some of this work for granted. That is an encouraging situation, and it is clear that these texts, some of them at least, open up new areas of investigation for those of us interested in gender and sexuality studies, and they do so with enough careful research and intelligent analysis to broaden the scholarly horizons for us all. Not all these books succeed in this way, and indeed some are singularly disappointing; but taken as a whole they make a powerful statement about where gender and sexuality studies are situated today.

Hilda Smith takes her title, "all men and both sexes," from an issue of the Athenian Mercury from the 1690s, in which an editor used this expression to reach out to the largest audience possible: the term refers to all men and not to women or boys, Smith points out. Her book goes on to examine the ways in which "thought patterns and popular expressions . . . encourage the visual and linguistic linkage of men to the universal human condition" (13). Smith sees modernity emerging alongside the codification of this false universal, and she discusses "the advent of revolution, and the market-based or republican-based evolution of the individual citizen" (28). She looks at the ways in which male maturation was itself implicated in the false universal. Even sexual difference was loaded in the seventeenth century: "it was never a discussion of the nature, training and adult goals of two distinct sexes; rather it was consistently grounded in a conflation of man and human in a large range of works directed to sons, apprentices, students, and so on" (40).

After a discussion of "Gender and Early Modern English Guilds," and "Gender, the Freeborn Englishman, and the Execution of Charles I," Smith turns [End Page 123] to "Commercialism, Politics, and Gender in the Eighteenth Century." In this chapter, she shows how "works on women became more stereotyped" in the eighteenth century, "with the 'fair sex' replacing the threatening specter of pubic women during the mid-seventeenth century" (137). She points to the limitations of recent scholarship on eighteenth-century notions of citizenship, nationalism, and the state. In The Birth of a Consumer Society, she argues, Neil McKendrick, John Brewer, and J. H. Plumb stress "women's buying habits . . . although men both practically and legally controlled the greatest amount of money during 1700s" (141). In essence, for Smith, the problem she sees in early modern culture is replicated in our own time.

Smith makes this point succinctly: "One of the difficulties in pinpointing the gendered nature of consumerism is that historians differ according to whether they are treating consumerism in a political or national context, or are describing the habits of a small group of consumers. As happens so often in historical scholarship, women are included as...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-315X
Print ISSN
0013-2586
Pages
pp. 123-129
Launched on MUSE
2003-10-07
Open Access
No
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