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Misogynous Economies

Misogynous Economies: The Business of Literature in Eighteenth-Century Britain

Laura Mandell
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Misogynous Economies
    Book Description:

    The eighteenth century saw the birth of the concept of literature as business: literature critiqued and promoted capitalism, and books themselves became highly marketable canonical objects. During this period, misogynous representations of women often served to advance capitalist desires and to redirect feelings of antagonism toward the emerging capitalist order.Misogynous Economiesproposes that oppression of women may not have been the primary goal of these misogynistic depictions.

    Using psychoanalytic concepts developed by Julia Kristeva, Mandell argues that passionate feelings about the alienating socioeconomic changes brought on by capitalism were displaced onto representations that inspired hatred of women and disgust with the female body. Such displacements also played a role in canon formation. The accepted literary canon resulted not simply from choices made by eighteenth-century critics but also, as Mandell argues, from editorial and production practices designed to stimulate readers' desires to identify with male poets.

    Mandell considers a range of authors, from Dryden and Pope to Anna Letitia Barbauld, throughout the eighteenth century. She also reconsiders Augustan satire, offering a radically new view that its misogyny is an attempt to resist the commodification of literature. Mandell shows how misogyny was put to use in public discourse by a culture confronting modernization and resisting alienation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5653-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    Although Jonathan Swift’s “A Beautiful Young Nymph” has painfully detailed every disgusting, disease-ridden part of Corinna’s body before coming to this conclusion, the poem’s last couplet tells us that it is the “dizened” ordressedCorinna who will make us nauseous. What disgusts Swift is not the female body but its cultural baggage: clothes.¹ Moreover, Corinna’s body is, the poem tells us, constituted by a heap of prosthetic devices: “a crystal eye,” a set of teeth, “rags” to prop up her breasts, “bolsters” for hips.² The poem sees as nauseating the things that Corinna uses to plug up holes and...

  6. 1 Misogyny and Literariness: Dryden, Pope, and Swift
    (pp. 21-36)

    Literary pleasure comes from texts that are structured sadomasochistically. While such an idea is rather easy to believe about early antifeminist satires, this sadomasochistic structure can be found inalltypes of eighteenth-century texts representing women. Both idealizing and satiric eighteenth-century poems encourage the reader to identify with many positions in the text, passive and active, sadistic and masochistic. Often professional readers of early-eighteenth-century satire have tried to convince themselves that the satiric is nothing like the passive satiric object. And yet there are moments when satirist and object become identical. If the satirist at moments resembles the person or...

  7. 2 Capitalism and Rape: Thomas Otway’s The Orphan
    (pp. 37-63)

    Thomas Otway’sThe Orphaneroticizes rape by using it to figure specular relations of power. The play renders rape appealing, represents it as procuring sexual pleasure, while simultaneously using rape to figure competitive business relations among entrepreneurs. The heroine of the she-tragedy plays the part of an abjected materiality that threatens to undermine the idealization of business relations: the raped, inert female body left over at the end of she-tragedies such as Otway’sThe Orphanand Nicholas Rowe’sJane Shoreis the price and remainder of the idealization process. The world-annihilating scenes of chaos portrayed so often at the end...

  8. 3 Engendering Capitalist Desire: Filthy Bawds and Thoroughly Good Merchants in Mandeville and Lillo
    (pp. 64-83)

    Bernard Mandeville’sFable of the BeesandModest Defence of Publick STEWSand Lillo’sLondon Merchantengender capitalist desires. By first gendering them female, these texts can scapegoat the figure of woman for morally repugnant aspects of capitalist pursuits. Such scapegoating engenders the desire to maximize profits not only by cleansing profiteering of its morally reprehensible features, but also by eroticizing the quest to capitalize on one’s investment.¹ My larger reason for examining this scapegoating process is to try to understand how at certain moments feminist sentiment surfaces in what are otherwise antifeminist works of the period. I am not...

  9. 4 Misogyny and Feminism: Mary Leapor
    (pp. 84-106)

    I must beg Leave to enter aCaveatagainst printing the Poem call’dMyra’s Picture;because tho’ she may be suppos’d to have made very free with herself, I think it may give the Reader a worse Idea of her Person than it deserv’d, which was very far from being shocking, tho’ there was nothing extraordi- Bridget Freemantle advises against printing this antiblason written by the popular eighteenth-century, laboring-class poet Mary Leapor.¹ As her patron, Freemantle is concerned in general to present Leapor as one of the deserving poor² and thus is worried about this antiblason’s politically subversive intent. Freemantle’s...

  10. 5 Misogyny and the Canon: The Character of Women in Anthologies of Poetry
    (pp. 107-128)

    Alexander Pope opens his “Epistle to a Lady” by quoting Martha Blount, who says, famously, “Most women have no characters at all.” “Character” can mean personality or moral fiber, but it can also refer to printed letters on a page, as Pope punningly points out in some verses on his publisher. He praises the character of the bookseller Bernard Lintot, especially as it appears on the title page of Lintot’s publications:¹

    His Character’s beyond compare;

    Like his own Person, large and fair.

    [Other booksellers] print their Names in Letters small,

    ButLINTOTTstands in Capital;

    Author and he with equal...

  11. 6 Transcending Misogyny: Anna Letitia Barbauld Writes Her Way Out
    (pp. 129-155)

    Until 1994 Anna Letitia Barbauld appeared in twentieth-century teaching anthologies of Romantic poetry only in a headnote to theRime of the Ancient Mariner.¹David Perkins quotes a passage from Coleridge’sTable Talkdated 31 May 1830:

    Mrs. Barbauld [1743–1825, poet and essayist] once told me that she admired the Ancient Mariner very much, but that there were two faults in it,—it was improbable, and had no moral. As for the probability, I owned that that might admit some question; but as to the want of a moral, I told her that in my own judgment the poem...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 156-158)

    In the preceding chapters, I have shown that there was, during the course of the eighteenth century, a shift in the affective economies informing both reading and writing practices. Early writers such as Dryden, Swift, Pope, and Otway try to keep open the play of textual indeterminacies. One way to preserve literariness is to ensure that readers and auditors will be induced, willingly or not, to identify with multiple positions in the text. In earlyeighteenth-century satire, misogynous portraits that implicate the misogynous voyeur (satiric persona and reader) in what are allegedly only the disgusting woman's crimes make satiric persona, reader,...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 159-211)
  14. Index
    (pp. 212-230)