Historicizing Romantic Sexuality

This volume looks at the protean constructions of sexuality in the Romantic period and in current Romanticist scholarship. Edited, introduced by Richard C. Sha, essays by Richard C. Sha, David M. Halperin, Jonathan Loesberg, Elizabeth Fay, Jillian Heydt-Stevenson, Susan S. Lanser, Bradford K. Mudge, Daniel O'Quinn and Andrew Elfenbein.

Table of Contents - Historicizing Romantic Sexuality

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The Uses and Abuses of Historicism: Halperin and Shelley on the Otherness of Ancient Greek Sexuality

Through a comparison of Percy Shelley's understanding of the alterity of Ancient Greek Sex with David Halperin's, Sha argues that alterity functions on the one hand to insist upon the otherness of Greek sex, and, on the other hand, to declare one's self-consciousness about that otherness. Because self-consciousness and otherness are necessarily at odds, alterity has become a post-modern form of objectivity. Once one declares one's allegiances, one is free to make the other other.
January 2006

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The State of Things: Olaudah Equiano and the Volatile Politics of Heterocosmic Desire

The essay explores the notion of masochist nationalism through a reading of a brief passage in Equiano's Interesting Narrative in which Equiano engages with a young Musquito man named George. Equiano's attempt to convert George is tied to a mutual reading of Fox's Book of Martyrs which posits a community of aggrieved souls who will enact vengeance on the slave holders and on those who sanction slavery. The argument pays particular attention to how Equiano figures George in a complex economy of humiliation and revenge. This revenge becomes highly sexualized when Equiano shifts his allusions from Fox's Book of Martyrs to The Book of Judges. From this point onward Equiano's text is thoroughly involved in a series of rape fantasies which have important nationalist implications. Ultimately, the essay suggests that Equiano's most radical gesture in this scene is to stage politics from the ground of the object, but it also demonstrates how such a politics is susceptible to unforeseen consequences.
January 2006

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Figure 1 - O'Quinn - "The State of Things: Olaudah Equiano and the Volative Politics of Heterocosmic Desire"

Landing of Captain Cook
From Martin Madan, The Book of Martyrs: Containing an Account of the Sufferings and Death of the Protestants in the Reign of Mary the First.
January 2006

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Figure 1 (detail) - O'Quinn - "The State of Things: Olaudah Equiano and the Volative Politics of Heterocosmic Desire"

January 2006

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How to Do the History of Pornography: Romantic Sexuality and its Field of Vision

This essay takes as its subject both the sexual body as represented in British romantic fiction and the imagination (is it "literary" or "pornographic"?) that was required to envision that body as a narrative event. Situated after the high watermark of "libertine literature" in the 1740s and 50s, but before the emergence of "pornography" proper in the 1830s and 40s, romantic fiction inherited the eighteenth century's conflicted attitudes about novelistic pleasure but was itself produced in a cultural marketplace that had not yet fixed and formulated the discursive opposition between "literature" and "pornography." The essay discusses these issues in dialogue with the historical and sexological discourse of Michel Foucault in The History of Sexuality.
January 2006

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Foucault and the Hedgerow History of Sexuality

This article argues that what it calls hedgerow envy, a generalized sense of having a non-historical stake in the meaning of a historical narrative—which is part of its inauthenticity and its theory—is also a central part of how Foucault's history works, as well as the debates his history has incited and played a part in over the historical meaning of sexuality and homosexuality.
January 2006

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"Put to the Blush": Romantic Irregularities and Sapphic Tropes

Without arguing for direct influence, this essay reads a group of English poems as an implicit Romantic conversation that advances different models of sapphic sublimity in a troplogical contest about the nature and place of female affinities. The essay begins by revisiting the exclusion of "Christabel" from the Lyrical Ballads, and goes on to discuss the implicit dialogue enacted through William Wordsworth's sonnet to the "Ladies of Llangollen" and Dorothy Wordsworth's poem "Irregular Verses." The essay concludes with a look at the metrical practices of these poems and of Shelley's "Rosalind and Helen," as a way to explore the ambivalences and ambiguities in Romantic configurations of female same-sex desire.
January 2006

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Landing of Captain Cook
Courtesy of The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto.