Equal Ardor: Female Desire, Amatory Fiction, and the Recasting of the Novel, 1680--1760

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ProQuest, 2008 - 200 pages
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This dissertation explores the significance of amatory fiction in shaping the development of the eighteenth-century novel by arguing for the importance and persistence of the amatory heroine, a character who challenges the notion that female novelistic subjectivity must be based on absolute sexual virtue. By placing novels by Aphra Behn and Eliza Haywood at the center of the history of the novel, I argue that female selfhood in the early novel was contingent on the heroine's erotic desire, and that amatory fiction encouraged complex responses to love, marriage, and the sexual double standard. Prolific even by the standards of a prolific time, Behn and Haywood explore their theories of desire in the several genres in which they wrote, including comedy, poetry, moral fiction, and domestic fiction. The introductory chapter offers ways to re-think the place of these authors in the history of the novel and thereby the history and purpose of the novel itself. Chapter 2 explores the ways in which Behn's amatory fiction functions as an "act six" and deals with issues left unresolved at the end of Restoration comedies, arguing that novels like Love-Letters between a Nobleman and His Sister provide a greater capacity to explore the dilemmas facing sexually desiring women than the five-act comic form. Chapter 3 analyzes similarities in Behn's The Fair Jilt , Haywood's Fantomina, and Defoe's Roxana to examine how dramatic residue of the theater allows these writers to emphasize performance and role playing to redefine female subjectivity. Chapter 4 analyzes several versions of one amatory tale, Behn's The History of the Nun, to demonstrate the ways in which desiring female protagonists were misread throughout the long eighteenth century. Chapter 5 examines the ways in which Haywood's amatory techniques persist in her later domestic novel, The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless; it argues that self-discovery through sexual exploration is as vital to eighteenth-century womanhood as was the persistence of sexual virtue.

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Act Six Amatory Fiction and Restoration Comedy
Amatory Fiction Moral Fiction and Theatrical SelfFashioning
Trajectories or Adaptations of Amatory Desire
Amatory Fiction and Domestic Fiction

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