By Susan Ostrov Weisser
Susan Weisser explores the ways that 4 British novelists used and reworked the topic of women's relation to sexual love within the eighteenth and 19th centuries. taking a look heavily at novels through Samuel Richardson, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte and George Eliot, the writer analyzes the instant in cultural background whilst gender roles, sexuality and literature met to turn into a brand new ideology: one within which the discourses of sexuality and romantic love are noticeable as either optimistic of lady freedom and harmful of woman id.
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Extra resources for Women and Sexual Love in the British Novel, 1740-1880: A Craving Vacancy
51 But while Moral Femininity used the appeal of romantic love as a corollary to the moral power and significance it promised the Victorian woman, the sexual side of passionate love was more directly compatible with the model of the Lady, who could use beauty, fashion and status to attain the object of her desire. The problem of whether romantic love could be 'pure' or was simply sexual desire in disguise, whether it was a 'holy' passion or a selfish indulgence, derived from its peculiarly dual nature as it appears in the history of Western culture.
18 Richardson especially disapproved of the emphasis on sexual attraction as a means for those ambitious girls in haste to make their fortunes, to catch their fish.... 19 The loosening of parental control over dowry and choice of spouse in the eighteenth century pushed those women who aspired to the ideal of the Lady into the aggressive, self-seeking behaviour conventionally associated with masculinity. 20 Pamela can end happily because romantic love, presented without its component of self-seeking sexuality, functions to provide human benevolence as glue to a society increasingly rent by shifting and problematic power relations between classes and genders.
What portent and what Delphic word Such as in form of snake forbodes the bird Is this? The Unknown Eros' is an odd, enigmatic poem, in which sexuality has become a message of 'portent', one with a heavy burden of significance to bear. It speaks now as a TDelphic word', an oracle capable of telling us more than we already know, so that the poet's inability to read or place this message is all the more frustrating. Most importantly, in direct contradiction to the ethos of Moral Femininity, the erotic is said to be heaven-like, but the poet qualifies this judgment by calling this heaven a 'rumour', a displaced sign whose truth-value is in question.