Excitable Imaginations: Eroticism and Reading in Britain, 1660-1760

Overview

Excitable Imaginations offers a new approach to the history of pornography. Looking beyond a counter-canon of bawdy literature, Kathleen Lubey identifies a vigilant attentiveness to sex across a wide spectrum of literary and philosophical texts in eighteenth-century Britain. Esteemed public modes of writing such as nationalist poetry, moral fiction, and empirical philosophy, as well as scandalous and obscene writing, persistently narrate erotic experiences—desire, voyeurism, seduction, orgasm. The recurring turn ...

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Excitable Imaginations: Eroticism and Reading in Britain, 1660-1760

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Overview

Excitable Imaginations offers a new approach to the history of pornography. Looking beyond a counter-canon of bawdy literature, Kathleen Lubey identifies a vigilant attentiveness to sex across a wide spectrum of literary and philosophical texts in eighteenth-century Britain. Esteemed public modes of writing such as nationalist poetry, moral fiction, and empirical philosophy, as well as scandalous and obscene writing, persistently narrate erotic experiences—desire, voyeurism, seduction, orgasm. The recurring turn to sexuality in literature and philosophy, she argues, allowed authors to recommend with great urgency how the risqué delights of reading might excite the imagination to ever greater degrees of educability on moral and aesthetic matters. Moralists such as Samuel Richardson and Adam Smith, like their licentious counterparts Rochester, Haywood, and Cleland, purposefully evoke salacious fantasy so that their audiences will recognize reading as an intellectual act that is premised on visceral pleasure. Eroticism in texts like Pamela and Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, in Lubey’s reading, did not compete with instructive literary aims, but rather was essential to the construction of the self-governing Enlightenment subject.

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Editorial Reviews

Eighteenth-Century Fiction
Kathleen Lubey, in this provocative and . . . exciting study, attempts to explain the erotics of reading through the century following 1660. If there were a period of English literature in which erotics would offer the most appropriate ground for a study, this would surely be it. Lubey uses philosophical and proto-psychological material as an entrée into her topic, and at times she outlines key features of the reading experience that allow her to generalize about responses to a range of writing from Pepys and John Cleland to works in other genres by authors/artists such as William Hogarth. . . .Excitable Imaginations is a great book.
Journal of the History of Sexuality
Excitable Imaginations gave me new ways of seeing many of the images and texts that I draw upon in my history course on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century sexualities. I highly recommend it.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Kathleen Lubey is associate professor of English at St. John's University.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Eroticism and the Eighteenth-Century Imagination
Chapter 1
Imperfect Enjoyments: Errors of the Imagination in Restoration England
Chapter 2
“Too great Warmth”: Joseph Addison, Eliza Haywood, and the Pleasures of Reading
Chapter 3
“Something greatly awful”: What Sex Does in Early Novels
Chapter 4
Sex as Form: The Aesthetic Pedagogies of John Cleland and William Hogarth
Coda
Philosophy’s Erotic Forms
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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