Women and Sexual Love in the British Novel, 1740–1880: A by Susan Ostrov Weisser

By Susan Ostrov Weisser

Susan Weisser explores the ways that 4 British novelists use and remodel the subject of women's relation to sexual love within the eighteenth and 19th centuries. taking a look heavily at novels via Samuel Richardson, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte and George Eliot, the writer analyzes the instant in cultural historical past while gender roles, sexuality and literature meet to develop into a brand new ideology: one during which the discourses of sexuality and romantic love are noticeable as either confident of woman freedom and harmful of woman identity.

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Working with the same structure found in innumerable popular works of fiction from Samuel Richardson's time through the soap operas and romance magazines of our own day, these novels construct female sexuality as a battle zone. Within this field of conflict the line of action is drawn between the selfinterested principle of modem capitalist society which endorses the amoral power of the self, and the larger claims of a patriarchal 'moral' community which traditionally requires female self-denial and obeisance to authority.

51 This supposedly unselfish and pure side of romantic passion led to its appeal even among 'moral womanhood', who were fond of describing the 'influence' of an innocent maiden over her impressionable young lover. 51 But while Moral Femininity used the appeal of romantic love as a corollary to the moral power and significance it promised the Victorian woman, the sexual side of passionate love was more directly compatible with the model of the Lady, who could use beauty, fashion and status to attain the object of her desire.

Therefore the seduction of a young, innocent female by a powerful male figure became a nineteenth-century prototype The Double Message of Sexual Love 27 for the 'inevitable' exploitation of personal relations that constituted modem society, for a type of evil rationalized as understandable, or in other words, eminently narratable. A contemporary British journal called man 'the architect' in society. 34 The presence of the sexual urge as the corporeal symbol of the 'free' individual will was incompatible with the soothing syrup of womanhood and home; it is in this context that the sexual purity of Moral Femininity can best be seen.

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