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 womenrs"s and lesbian history, feminist theory, and histories of the novel,Dangerous Intimacieschallenges 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 novelrs"s representation of womenrs"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 asMillenium Hall,Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure,Belinda, andEmmaand analyzes how the new literary form of the novel made the bourgeois heroiners"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 readersrs" identifications with the heroiners"s virtue helped the novelrs"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 Englandrs"s national identity-Moore shows how feminine sexual agency emerged as an important cultural force in post-Enlightenment England

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About the author (1997)

LISA L. MOORE is Associate Professor of English and Women's and Gender Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.