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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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Sapphic Sects and the Rites of Revolution, 1775–1800

Sapphic Sects and the Rites of Revolution, 1775–1800

(p.193) Chapter Six Sapphic Sects and the Rites of Revolution, 1775–1800
The Sexuality of History

Susan S. Lanser

University of Chicago Press

Focusing especially on the 1780s and 1790s, Chapter 6 asks how female intimacies became associated with fears and fantasies of power, exclusion, and secrecy in the era of the “rights of man.” At a time when exclusive clubs and secret societies proliferate and reformist pressures escalate, imaginary “anandryne” sects and accusations against specific women intersect with reformist and counter-reformist politics both in and beyond France as newspapers, pamphlets, scurrilous poems, and secret histories grapple with the broader threats of closed and mysterious societies such as the Freemasons. A discourse of similitude, attached to intensifying conversations about rights, puts the sapphic at the heart at once of class politics, fears of conspiracy, and hopes for collectivity. In the process, representations of female affiliation are invested with both utopian idealism and dystopian excess. Writings of the 1770s and 1780s often use female erotic association to work out both hopes and fears of a different future, but in the 1790s, the explicitly sapphic becomes so firmly aligned with counter-revolution that it loses traction as an exploratory site. Particularly but not only in France, sapphic subjects thus stand emblematically at the crux of late-eighteenth-century political crisis.

Keywords:   French Revolution, Marie Antoinette, anandryne, Freemasons, sect, pamphlets

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