Author Archives: Laura Rosenthal

Happy Valentine’s Day from Bernard Mandeville

 

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[B]y Love we understand a strong Inclination, in its Nature distinct from all other Affections of Friendship, Gratitude, and Consanguinity, that Persons of different Sexes, after liking, bear to one another: It is in this Signification that Love enters into the Compound of Jealousy, and is the Effect as well as happy Disguise of that Passion that prompts us to labour for the Preservation of our Species. This latter Appetite is innate both in Men and Women, who are not defective in their Formation, as much as Hunger or Thirst, tho’ they are seldom affected with it before the Years of Puberty. Could we undress Nature, and pry into her deepest Recesses, we should discover the Seeds of this Passion before it exerts itself, as plainly as we see the Teeth in an Embryo, before the Gums are form’d. There are few healthy People of either Sex, whom it has made no Impression upon before Twenty: Yet, as the Peace and Happiness of the Civil Society require that this should be kept a Secret, never to be talk’d of in Publick; so among well-bred People it is counted highly Criminal to mention before Company any thing in plain Words, that is relating to this Mystery of Succession: By which Means the very Name of the Appetite, tho’ the most necessary for the Continuance of Mankind, is become odious, and the proper Epithets commonly join’d to Lust are Filthy and Abominable.

Bernard Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees or Private Vices, Publick Benefits, 2 vols. With a Commentary Critical, Historical, and Explanatory by F.B. Kaye (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1988). Vol. 1. Chapter: [45]REMARKS.

Accessed from http://oll.libertyfund.org/title/846/66867/1631178 on 2014-02-14

 

Congreve’s “Love for Love” staged reading

For Congreve fans in the DC area, there will be a staged reading of Love for Love on Monday evening.  Sorry for the short notice but I only recently found out about it.  I have attended these before and they are excellent.

 

 

When you’re done grading, go to the theater

 

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Ever on the lookout for productions of drama from the extra long eighteenth century, I am passing along the announcement of this production of Le Cid (1636) by Pierre Corneille (translated by Richard Wilbur) at the Storm Theatre in New York.  This is the same theater and the same director responsible for an outstanding production of The London Merchant,  discussed here and here on this blog. The Red Bull Theatre’s production of Volpone might also be of interest.  I have not yet seen this, but admired this company’s deliciously bloody Revenger’s Tragedy a few years ago and hope to see Volpone as well.  Finally, today’s New York Times reviewed a production of Amy Freed’s play, Restoration Comedy, based in part on Colley Cibber’s Love’s Last Shift. The review did not make the production sound particularly tempting, but I would be happy to hear from anyone with a different perspective.

What Matters in Humanities Education

Since we like to talk about teaching here too, readers might be interested in my report on the Teagle Foundation‘s convening on “What Works and What Matters in Student Learning.” The conference specifically addressed the humanities. This link will take you to the web page for the event; scroll down a bit for reports by me and by Ashley Finley of AAC&U. I welcome comments and feedback on what you think matters.

Folger conference on Early Modern Cities

I have been asked to pass along this reminder about an exciting conference at the Folger:

Registrations for the Folger Institute’s September conference, “Early Modern Cities in Comparative Perspective,” will be accepted through 14 September (assuming space remains.)

Support from The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation extends grants-in-aid to conference participants from U.S. institutions who are not affiliates of the Folger Institute consortium. The application deadline is 4 September 2012. Please visit the Institute’s website for application materials and guidelines.

The conference schedule and abstracts may be found here.

Questions? Please contact institute@folger.edu.

Back to School

Some of the advice in this post by Mary Clement on course evaluations and what students want might seem obvious to the experienced, but I thought it was a very good summary of some basic practices that really make a difference so I am passing this along.

John Locke on Gay Marriage

In 1988, Carole Pateman discussed the strange misalignment between modern contract theory, as conceived by John Locke and others, and the special case of the marriage contract: “unlike other contracts, the marriage contract cannot be entered into by any two (or more) sane adults, but is restricted to two parties, one of whom must be a man and the other a woman” (167).  One would think that in a true contract society, this restriction on marriage contracts would be a contradiction because the status of the two parties should not be a factor.  But for Pateman, there is no contradiction but instead a misunderstanding of contract: the “attack on sexual difference [by those advocating for individual equality] . . . suffers from an insuperable problem: the ‘individual’ is a patriarchal category” (168)

Her argument was that the sex-designation of the marriage contract has not resulted from the failure to overcome this last remnant of status difference (as others have argued), but rather has deeper roots.  While Locke “remarked that marital society established through the marriage contract, ‘consists chiefly in the spouses’ ‘Communion and Right in one another Bodies,’” Pateman argues that it is actually based on “male sex-right” rather than an agreement for mutual access.  Locke, she argues, did not advocate an egalitarian contractarianism over a Filmerian patriarchy, but rather located political authority in one sphere and domestic authority in another.  Thus, “Locke agrees with Filmer that there is a natural foundation for a wife’s subjection.”  The original husband in Locke “must have exercised conjugal right over his wife before he became a father” (93) and was able to exercise political authority.  So Locke, Pateman argues, assumes that the the non-political authority of the male in the natural (“non-political”) sphere comes first and is not negotiated (or negotiable—no matter what goes on between Mirabell and Millamant). 

 

 The husband’s dominance is instead founded on the assumption of male sex-right.  This is the hidden contract behind the contract; it is the reason why the marriage contract can, contradictorily and unlike in any other contract, designate in advance the sex of each party.  The sex-designation of marriage reveals for Pateman not so much the limits of contract theory, but the patriarchal assumption behind the very category of the individual.  The individual of “individualism” is a Lockean, political subject who has already exerted natural (non-political) rights over a woman to place him in the public sphere as the representative of a family.

Maybe it’s way too early to say “until now.”  But what does it mean for the sexual contract that a US President can defend marriage equality?  Many will say that this is not a feminist issue or a contract theory issue at all, but rather an issue of the relative authority of religion.  But the way religion makes its way into policy has always been highly selective.  Dante placed sodomites and usurers in the same circle of hell (number 7!). 

 

I have yet to meet a Christian who eschews usury out of conscience or fear of hell, nor can I think of a government policy designed to eradicate it.  On the contrary, it seems to be encouraged. 

At its most radical, Pateman’s Sexual Contract suggests that individualism and contractarianism do not represent progress; on the contrary, they are impediments to feminism because they are designed to assume a particular, hidden hierarchy.  The category of the “individual” will never include everyone, and the best evidence for this was the (contradictory) sex-designation of the marriage contract.

What does Obama’s declaration do to this argument?  Does it suggest that the category of the “individual” is expandable after all?  Was “male sex-right” actually a residual hold-over, as the theorists to whom Pateman objected had claimed, rather than an inherent aspect of contract?   

  Liberals argue that gay marriage does not change the definition of marriage.  But if Pateman offers any insight into Locke and early concepts of individualism, then gay marriage does redefine the marriage contract. And maybe that’s the best part.

Works Cited

Carole Pateman, The Sexual Contract.  Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988.

LR

Graduate Student Caucus Panel: “After Exoticism”

We are pleased to announce the participants in the ASECS 2012 Graduate Student Panel entitled “After Exoticism” at 4:15 on Thursday, so mark your program!  In this panel, professors will respond briefly to pre-circulated papers written by graduate students, after which we will open things up to general discussion of the topic.  YOU DON’T NEED TO READ THE PAPERS TO ENJOY THE PANEL but they are linked below.  Printed abstracts are also linked and copies will be available the panel.  We look forward to seeing you there.

Nick Miller (Graduate Caucus Chair) and Laura Rosenthal (Panel Chair)

 “After Exoticism”

Chair: Laura J. Rosenthal, University of Maryland

  1. Matt Gertken, University of Texas-Austin, “Swift’s Unholy Alliances and the Global Balance of Power”   (Abstract)

Respondent: Christopher Fox, Notre Dame University

       2. Nina Budabin McQuown, “Exotic Food as Substantial Fare in the Eighteenth-Century Novel”  (Abstract)

Respondent: Elizabeth Kowaleski Wallace, Boston University

      3.  W. Kang Tchou, “In the Wake of Exoticism: Robert Morrison and the Taiping Rebellion in China”

Respondent: Robert Markley, University of Illinois

        4.  Bethany Williamson, Southern Methodist University, “Courts, Cabals, and Coffeehouses: Female Space and Feminist Orientalism in Delarivier Manley’s New Atalantis and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s Turkish Embassy Letters”   (Abstract)

Respondent: Laura Mandell, Texas A&M University

       5.  Jennifer Ryer, University of Connecticut, “The Anxieties of Empire: Anti-Imperial Sentiments In English Restoration Theater”  (Abstract)

Respondent: Misty Anderson, University of Tennessee

The Gaming Table (Basset Table)

Here are a couple of short videos put out by the Folger about The Gaming Table, which is well worth seeing.  They’re doing a nice job with this play, especially with the character of Valeria.  My students have so far found it more fun than they expected.  Minor complaint: Sir James, who you see in the first video on the right, really needs a better wig.

 

The (Other) London Merchant

Millwood’s character might be the hardest to read in the play, but the Storm Theatre’s production offered a successful interpretation.  In the opening of this performance, Millwood (played brilliantly by Jessica Myhr) appears on one side and Thorowgood on the other.  While Thorowgood instructs his apprentices on the higher purpose of the merchant, Lucy transforms Millwood, through dress, hair, and makeup, into a fashionable beauty with (I think significantly) no obvious markers of her profession.  Thus Thorowgood and Millwood are set off against each other from the beginning.

One surprising possibility that this production brought out but that is less obvious in reading is the comic potential of the first half of the play.  Millwood could have been Helena from The Rover, flirting impishly with George.  She is manipulative, but performs these scenes with a light touch.  While readers of the play know what will happen and critics pause over her ominous lines about treating men like the Spaniards treated the native Americans, in this production Millwood seduces the audience along with George.  Even when she returns with the story about the rapacious guardian, the scene has a more comic than ominous effect, like a Restoration play in which a husband needs to be manipulated so that a lover can sneak out the back door.

Millwood’s character takes a darker turn in the second half of the play.  Interesting, though, her most truly nefarious demands take place off stage, reported by Lucy.  This, one the one hand, makes the play a bit talky.  On the other hand, it seems actually to preserve Millwood’s character in certain ways.  Lillo seems to be leading us toward maintaining some sympathy for Millwood by leaving the murder request off stage. We don’t actually know exactly what transpired between her and George.  If this scene were staged, it would clearly occupy the center of the play, as George would be choosing between his passion and his sense of humanity.  It is worth thinking about, then, that Lillo didn’t want this decision to displace other tensions in the play.

Critics have often read Millwood as simply evil.  Feminists have alternatively pointed to the ways that Lillo builds sympathy for her position through her sense of her own victimization.  But this production did not take either of these routes.  Myhr’s Millwood is instead a Hobbesian, a rationalist, and a skeptic.  In the hanging scene at the end (included in this production), George and Millwood stand side by side awaiting their death.  George prays, then prays for Millwood; the performance compares her panic to his resignation.  Thorowgood observes that while the laws of man cannot distinguish them, a higher law will recognize the difference.  Nevertheless, we see them dramatically meet the identical fate, walking in coordinated rhythm to the same gallows.

Myhr’s powerful Millwood, then, does not assert female victimization, but instead demands that we consider the possibility that nothing exists beyond the material world as she and Barnwell sink into the same abyss.