Dangerous Intimacies

Toward a Sapphic History of the British Novel

Dangerous Intimacies
Book Pages: 200 Illustrations: Published: November 1997

Author: Lisa L. Moore

Subjects
Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, LGBTQ Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

Refuting commonly held beliefs within women’s and lesbian history, feminist theory, and histories of the novel, Dangerous Intimacies challenges the idea that sex between women was unimaginable in British culture before the late nineteenth century. Lisa L. Moore argues that literary representations of female sexual agency—and in particular "sapphic" relationships between women—were central to eighteenth-century debates over English national identity. Moore shows how the novel’s representation of women’s "romantic friendships"—both platonic and sexual—were encoded within wider social concerns regarding race, nation, and colonialist ventures.
Moore demonstrates that intimacy between women was vividly imagined in the British eighteenth century as not only chaste and virtuous, but also insistently and inevitably sexual. She looks at instances of sapphism in such novels as Millenium Hall, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, Belinda, and Emma and analyzes how the new literary form of the novel made the bourgeois heroine’s successful negotiation of female friendship central to the establishment of her virtue. Moore also examines representations of sapphism through the sweeping economic and political changes of the period and claims that middle-class readers’ identifications with the heroine’s virtue helped the novel’s bourgeois audience justify the violent bases of their new prosperity, including slavery, colonialism, and bloody national rivalry.
In revealing the struggle over sapphism at the heart of these novels of female friendship—and at the heart of England’s national identity—Moore shows how feminine sexual agency emerged as an important cultural force in post-Enlightenment England

Praise

“[C]areful, scholarly, and insightful. . . .” — Susan J. Leonardi , Signs

"By consistently attending to the often selfish leveraging of race and class in stories of female homosexual passion, Dangerous Intimacies emerges as a valuable cautionary tale and a timely complication in the bedtime story of romantic friendship." — Bonnie Blackwell , Eighteenth-Century Studies

"Moore posits a provocative thesis, one which foregrounds the expressive and transformative power of literature. . . . Engaging and thoughtful. . . ." — Pam Lieske , Eighteenth-Century Studies

"The best thing about Lisa Moore’s new book is not that it puts sex back into the history of ‘romantic friendships’ between women; nor that it explodes the myth that there were no ‘lesbians’ before the end of the nineteenth century; nor, finally, that it gives ‘Sapphic history’ a prominent place in both the institutional history of the novel and the ideological genealogy of modernity. Dangerous Intimacies, certainly, aspires to and largely achieves all of these hefty ambitions. Yet its most salutary contribution to literary studies and lesbian historiography may well lie elsewhere in its timely reminder that representations of lesbian desire, despite their much-remarked ‘disruptive aspects’ can be appropriated to serve cultural goals that are anything but revolutionary. . . . The spectacle of female same-sex desire, as Moore’s readings deftly show, can actually be made to contribute to the development of the very ideological forces that ‘Sapphism’ would seem best positioned to challenge." — Jody Greene, Nineteenth-Century Literature

“Engaging and original . . . Dangerous Intimacies makes a singular contribution to lesbian studies, feminist studies, and the history of the novel.” — Beth Kowaleski-Wallace, Boston College


“Moore refers to some of the most important current debates in queer theory—the nature of sexual identity, its history, its roots, and its relation to other factors in identity formations, such as race, class, ethnicity, gender, and national origin. She locates those arguments in persuasive, insightful readings that are refreshingly unhackneyed.” — Sally O’Driscoll, Fairfield University


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Price: $24.95
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Lisa L. Moore is Associate Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin.

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Paper: 978-0-8223-2049-4 / Cloth: 978-0-8223-2036-4
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