Our next CRECS event turns to the eternal question of sexuality, gender and domesticity (in the eighteenth century). Christian Grey may be the man of the moment (unfortunately), but the Georgians had their own—characteristic, shall we say?—view of romance and sex, which might raise a few eyebrows even today. The literature, drama and art of the eighteenth century offer myriad views of sexual mores that are as complex and contradictory as our own, ranging from prudence to prurience, from respectability to rakishness.
Women, in particular, found themselves at the heart of a paradox. On the one hand, they were expected to comply with ideologies regarding the correct modes of female behaviour, which was always under scrutiny and strictly regulated. On the other hand, women were objects of unflinching male desire and transgressive passion: the controlling gaze of the father could transform into the illicit voyeurism of the lover.
On Tuesday evening, three members of the CRECS team will ask participants to think more deeply about these questions and tensions regarding sexuality and domesticity in the eighteenth century.
- Looking at an early female pioneer of female agency and authorship, Melanie Bigold will consider the case of Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina; or, Love in a Maze (1725), in which a woman attempts to seduce the man she loves by adopting a series of increasingly outlandish disguises.
- Anthony Mandal will discuss the complex representation of sexual desire, arranged marriage and social satire that is presented in William Hogarth’s sequence of six paintings, in the series Marriage à-la-Mode (1743–45).
- Sophie Coulombeau will wrap up the presentations by examining the conduct-book writing of authors like John Gregory, whose A Father’s Legacy to his Daughters (1761) offered a range of didactic and moralising instructions to young women—the ancestor of the modern self-help book or magazine advice column, we might (provocatively) say.
- The second part of the evening will build on these presentations through group-based readings of short extracts from these writers’ works and of Hogarth’s paintings, followed by general discussion among participants.
So, join us for a lively evening of conversation and consideration in Cardiff University’s Special Collections and Archives (SCOLAR), in the basement of the Arts and Social Studies Library. The event starts at 5.15pm on 17 March 2015. As usual, refreshments will follow after the presentations and discussion.