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The Sexuality of HistoryModernity and the Sapphic, 1565-1830$
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Susan S. Lanser

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226187563

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226187877.001.0001

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The Political Economy of Same-Sex Desire, 1630–1765

The Political Economy of Same-Sex Desire, 1630–1765

(p.110) Chapter Four The Political Economy of Same-Sex Desire, 1630–1765
The Sexuality of History

Susan S. Lanser

University of Chicago Press

The sapphic imaginary bears particular implications for the construction of women as subjects in an emergent public sphere. Chapter 4 argues that erotic writings by women, especially in the form of what I call sapphic apostrophe, were able to advance class-specific protofeminist arguments in ways that reveal the seventeenth-century female subject to be something of a sapphic subject as well. These articulations of female friendship, which became prominent in tandem with the entrance of elite women into print, are too pervasive and too purposefully public to be explained wholly by the private desires of their authors. Chapter 4 thus considers why women's interests might have been served by their constitution as subjects erotically bound to one another in representation. Class relations figure centrally in the cultural work both of the texts themselves and of this chapter, as I look at a practice that peaks in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century and ebbs by the 1760s in the wake of reconfigurations of femininity that can be associated with such influential thinkers as Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Keywords:   sapphic apostrophe, friendship, class, feminism, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, politics, women writers

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