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Moved by Love: Inspired Artists and Deviant Women in Eighteenth-Century France

Overview

In eighteenth-century France, the ability to lose oneself in a character or scene marked both great artists and ideal spectators. Yet it was thought this same passionate enthusiasm, if taken to unreasonable extremes, could also lead to sexual deviance, mental illness -- even death. Women and artists were seen as especially susceptible to these negative consequences of creative enthusiasm, and women artists, doubly so. Mary D. Sheriff uses these very different visions of enthusiasm to explore the complex ...
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Moved by Love: Inspired Artists and Deviant Women in Eighteenth-Century France

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Overview

In eighteenth-century France, the ability to lose oneself in a character or scene marked both great artists and ideal spectators. Yet it was thought this same passionate enthusiasm, if taken to unreasonable extremes, could also lead to sexual deviance, mental illness -- even death. Women and artists were seen as especially susceptible to these negative consequences of creative enthusiasm, and women artists, doubly so. Mary D. Sheriff uses these very different visions of enthusiasm to explore the complex interrelationships among creativity, sexuality, the body, and the mind in eighteenth-century France. Drawing on evidence from the visual arts, literature, philosophy, and medicine, she portrays the deviance ascribed to both inspired men and women. But while various mythologies worked to normalize deviance in male artists, women had no justification. For instance, the mythical sculptor Pygmalion was cured of an abnormal love for his statues through the making of art. He became a model for creative artists, living happily with his statues come to life. No happy endings, though, were imagined for such inspired women writers as Sappho and Heloise, who burned with an erotomania their art could not quench. Even so, Sheriff demonstrates that the perceived connections among sexuality, creativity, and disease also opened artistic opportunities for women -- and creative women took full advantage of them. Brilliantly reassessing the links between sexuality and creativity, artistic genius and madness, passion and reason, Moved by Love will profoundly reshape our view of eighteenth-century French culture.
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Editorial Reviews

New Perspectives on the Eighteenth Century

"While directed primarily toward scholars, all readers will discover in this book new insights on the role of women in shaping our concepts of gender, art, and creativity. Numerous illustations and an extensive bibliography enrich this intricately crafted book."

— Felicia B. Sturzer

New Perspectives on the Eighteenth Century - Felicia B. Sturzer
"While directed primarily toward scholars, all readers will discover in this book new insights on the role of women in shaping our concepts of gender, art, and creativity. Numerous illustations and an extensive bibliography enrich this intricately crafted book."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226752877
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2004
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 10.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary D. Sheriff is the W.R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Art and department chair at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of The Exceptional Woman: Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun and the Cultural Politics of Art and Fragonard: Art and Eroticism, both published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
Ch. 1 Enthusiasm: Reason's Masterpiece 15
Ch. 2 The Artist and the Woman 43
Ch. 3 Deviant Spectators: Ignorant Girls and Women Who Know Too Much 85
Ch. 4 Pygmalion's Enthusiasm and the Fires of Nymphomania, or The Psychology of Art and Desire 125
Ch. 5 The Model Pygmalion and the Artist Galatea 159
Ch. 6 Inspired by Heloise 201
Conclusion: Closing the Circle, Opening the End 241
Notes 247
Bibliography 283
Index 297
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