Enfilade

New Book | The Sexuality of History: Modernity and the Sapphic

Posted in books by Editor on February 25, 2015

From The University of Chicago Press:

Susan Lanser, The Sexuality of History: Modernity and the Sapphic, 1565–1830 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2014), 344 pages, Cloth ISBN: 978-0226187563, $95 / Paper ISBN: 978-0226187730, $32.50 / E-book ISBN: 978-0226187877, $7–$30.

9780226187730The period of reform, revolution, and reaction that characterized seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe also witnessed an intensified interest in lesbians. In scientific treatises and orientalist travelogues, in French court gossip and Dutch court records, in passionate verse, in the rising novel, and in cross-dressed flirtations on the English and Spanish stage, poets, playwrights, philosophers, and physicians were placing sapphic relations before the public eye.

In The Sexuality of History, Susan S. Lanser shows how intimacies between women became harbingers of the modern, bringing the sapphic into the mainstream of some of the most significant events in Western Europe. Ideas about female same-sex relations became a focal point for intellectual and cultural contests between authority and liberty, power and difference, desire and duty, mobility and change, order and governance. Lanser explores the ways in which a historically specific interest in lesbians intersected with, and stimulated, systemic concerns that would seem to have little to do with sexuality. Departing from the prevailing trend of queer reading whereby scholars ferret out hidden content in ‘closeted’ texts, Lanser situates overtly erotic representations within wider spheres of interest.  The Sexuality of History shows that just as we can understand sexuality by studying the past, so too can we understand the past by studying sexuality.

Susan S. Lanser is professor of comparative literature, English, and women’s and gender studies at Brandeis University. She is the author of Fictions of Authority: Women Writers and Narrative Voice and The Narrative Act: Point of View in Prose Fiction.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s