Dangerous Intimacies: Toward a Sapphic History of the British Novel

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Duke University Press, 1997 - Literary Criticism - 191 pages
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Refuting commonly held beliefs within women's and lesbian history, feminist theory, and histories of the novel, Dangerous Intimacies challenges the idea that sex between women was unimaginable in British culture before the late nineteenth century. Lisa L. Moore argues that literary representations of female sexual agency - and in particular 'sapphic' relationships between women - were central to eighteenth-century debates over English national identity. Moore shows how the novel's representation of women's 'romantic friendships' - both platonic and sexual - were encoded within wider social concerns regarding race, nation, and colonialist ventures.
Moore demonstrates that intimacy between women was vividly imagined in the British eighteenth century as not only chaste and virtuous, but also insistently and inevitably sexual. She looks at instances of sapphism in such novels as Millenium Hall, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, Belinda, and Emma and analyses how the new literary form of the novel made the bourgeois heroine's successful negotiation of female friendship central to the establishment of her virtue. Moore also examines representations of sapphism through the sweeping economic and political changes of the period and claims that middle-class readers' identifications with the heroine's virtue helped the novel's bourgeois audience justify the violent bases of their new prosperity, including slavery, colonialism, and bloody national rivalry.
In revealing the struggle over sapphism at the heart of these novels of female friendship - and at the heart of England's national identity - Moore shows how feminine sexual agency emerged as an important cultural force in post-Enlightenment England. Of particular interest to readers engaged in literary and queer theory, Dangerous Intimacies will also appeal to students and scholars of the novel, eighteenth-century studies, and postcolonial studies.

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Page 135 - The first error, and the worst, lay at her door. It was foolish, it was wrong, to take so active a part in bringing any two people together. It was adventuring too far, assuming too much, making light of what ought to be serious — a trick of what ought to be simple. She was quite concerned and ashamed, and resolved to do such things no more. "Here have I," said she, "actually talked poor Harriet into being very much attached to this man.
Page 141 - Seldom, very seldom, does complete truth belong to any human disclosure ; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, or a little mistaken...
Page 139 - It was all the service she could now render her poor friend ; for as to any of that heroism of sentiment which might have prompted her to entreat him to transfer his affection from herself to Harriet, as infinitely the most worthy of the two, or even the more simple sublimity of resolving to refuse him at once and for ever, without vouchsafing any motive, because he could not marry them both, Emma had it not.
Page 141 - Very little white satin, very few lace veils; a most pitiful business! Selina would stare when she heard of it.' But, in spite of these deficiencies, the wishes, the hopes, the confidence, the predictions of the small band of true friends who witnessed the ceremony, were fully answered in the perfect happiness of the union, (p.
Page 161 - colonial discourse" as "an ensemble of linguistically-based practices unified by their common deployment in the management of colonial relationships. Underlying the idea of colonial discourse... is the presumption that during the colonial period large parts of the non-European world were produced for Europe through a discourse that imbricated sets of questions and assumptions, methods of procedure and analysis, and kinds of writing and imagery, normally separated out into the discrete areas of military...
Page 123 - She was a very pretty girl, and her beauty happened to be of a sort which Emma particularly admired. She was short, plump and fair, with a fine bloom, blue eyes, light hair, regular features, and a look of great sweetness...
Page 42 - ... different, they might have been as generous, as tender-hearted and just, as they are unfeeling, rapacious, and cruel. Surely this traffic cannot be good, which spreads like a pestilence, and taints what it touches! which violates that first natural right of mankind, equality and independency, and gives one man a dominion over his fellows which God could never intend...
Page 17 - The power to narrate, or to block other narratives from forming and emerging, is very important to culture and imperialism, and constitutes one of the main connections between them.
Page 70 - Cole's remark was that her indescretion proceeding from a constitutional facility, there were little hopes of any thing curing her of it, but repeated severe experience. Mine was that I could not conceive how it was possible for mankind to run into a taste, not only universally odious, but absurd, and impossible to gratify; since, according to the notions and experience I had of things, it was not in nature to force such immense disproportions.
Page 63 - I found every thing breath'd an air of decency, modesty and order. In the outer parlour, or rather shop, sat three young women, very demurely employ'd on millinery work, which was the cover of a traffic in more precious commodities; but three beautifuller creatures could hardly be seen.

About the author (1997)

Lisa L. Moore is Associate Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin.

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