Drawing on the work of Michel Foucault and Jürgen Habermas, this essay explores how the relationships among reason, madness, and sexuality were represented and contested in the print culture of eighteenth-century Britain. I discuss a wide range of texts—including Addison and Steele’s Tatler and Spectator; the anonymously authored Reasons for the Growth of Sodomy and Hell upon Earth; and Ned Ward’s Secret History of Clubs—in order to demonstrate how male same-sex desire was depicted as a “mad” transgression of emergent norms of sexuality and publicity. As I argue, rhetorical efforts to pathologize the “sodomite” and the “molly” were ideologically necessary for establishing conjugal heterosexual desire as the ideal union of reason, sex, and morality. At the same time, I suggest, the dissemination of these phobic representations of male same-sex desire within the British public sphere unwittingly served counter-phobic ends by opening a critical space in which the authority of heteronormative ideology could be contested and queer forms of expression, sociability, and freedom could be imagined


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pp. 291-315
Launched on MUSE
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