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HUMANITIES 461 while inviting us to 'endorse homophobically-charged depictions of malemale desire ... as the glass through which we might see ourselves, however darkly.' Instead McFarlane offers a study of the representational contexts of sodomy and the sodomite as a means not of judging the 1 1:Tuth' of these accounts but rather as a way of assessing the 'cultural work which these representations performed.' He makes good (but not slavish) use of recent work in queer theory to explore how anxieties about political economic, and social disorder were displaced onto the sodomite, making him the monstrous embodiment of a host of contemporary bugbears. His reading of such texts as Sodom; or, the Quintessence of Debauchery and Love Letters Between a certail1 late Nobleman and the famous Mr. Wilson reveal how the sodomite achieved 'a significant discursive prominence as a social type' who 'represented an anarchic force that threatened to undermine the nation and against which the nation might define itself.' The final half of the book focuses on a number of works by Smollett and on Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. With both these authors McFarlane suggests the ways in which sodomy is both the object of vociferous denunciation a11d the subject of an almost obsessive fascination. His readings of Smollett, conventionally that most 'manly' of novelists, reveal how the erotics of sodomy underwrite the bluff and hearty world of homosocial camaraderie, how the 'continual use of anal and excremental imagery ... [suggests] a libidinal subtext disavowed by the novel's more overt and sodomitical practices.' Similarly, though Cleland's stridently heterosexual work enthusiastically conderrms the sodomitef it is male (and not female) genitalia that form the subject of some of his most overwrought descriptions. While certain recent work in queer theory may seem reminiscent of, to quote Wilde's Lady Bracknell, some of the worst excesses of the French Revolution, Cameron McFarlane's The Sodomite in Fiction and Satire 166tr1750 suggests how productive theoretical insights can be when combined with historical sensitivity and critical good sense. In a field too long dominated by a small group of writers recycling their own and each others' arguments, McFarlane offers a timely and judicious intervention whose significance should be felt in gender and sexuality studies across periods. (CRAIG PATTERSON) Camille R. La Bossiere. The Progress ofIndolence: Readings in (Neo)Augustan Literary Cttltllre York Press. ivJ 68. $9.95 What do Jonathan Swift, James Thomson, Maria Edgeworth, Oliver Goldsmith , Herman Melville, Aldous Huxley, and Hugh MacLennan have in 462 LETTERS IN CANADA 1997 common? Each, according to Camille LaBossiere, represents an important exemplification of the 'progress of indolence' from the eighteenth century to our own. Indolence, which our author links with, but distinguishes from, 'boredom' and 'emmi/ is here characterized as the 'artful balancing' of two apparently contradictory senses of the word (borrowed by LaBossiere from Samuel Johnson's Dictionary): 'Freedom from pain/ which he glosses as 'a symptom of happy equipoise in mind as in body,' and 'Laziness; inattention ; idleness.' That indolence is an important conception in eighteenth-century literature is something that few would deny; LaBossiere seeks to demonstrate that indolence is 'a practical effect of the logic of balance-and-mean on which so much of modem literary culture has founded itself.' This ~alance-and-mean/ which he identifies with classical moderation, he views as a kind of moral ambiguity and scepticism (Hume, not unnaturally, plays a large role in his argument). A chapter on Thomson's The Castle ofIndolence thus argues that the poem is less an affirmation of the poet's Christian response to idleness than an expression of ethical indeterminacy, while a discussion of Swift's sermons demonstrates that the Swiftian 'negative logic of balance-and-mean' produces an effect of 'ethical suspension' and, rnora1 (and even physical) sedation. This idea is reiterated like a formula in succeeding chapters: moderation equals moral ambiguity, which produces an analgesic response of indolence. A final chapter, on Huxley and MacLennan , rounds out the 'progress' of this phenmnenon by demonstrating how the moderation of these two writers glanced back to the eighteenthcentury for models. It will be apparent that this book is ambitious in its scope and intended...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 461-463
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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