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The Politics of Desire: English Women Playwrights, Partisanship, and the Staging of Female Sexuality, 1660-1737

Pfeiffer, Loring (2015) The Politics of Desire: English Women Playwrights, Partisanship, and the Staging of Female Sexuality, 1660-1737. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The Politics of Desire argues that late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century women playwrights make key interventions into period politics through comedic representations of sexualized female characters. During the Restoration and the early eighteenth century in England, partisan goings-on were repeatedly refracted through the prism of female sexuality. Charles II asserted his right to the throne by hanging portraits of his courtesans at Whitehall, while Whigs avoided blame for the volatility of the early eighteenth-century stock market by foisting fault for financial instability onto female gamblers. The discourses of sexuality and politics were imbricated in the texts of this period; however, scholars have not fully appreciated how female dramatists’ treatment of desiring female characters reflects their partisan investments. In fact, critical estimations of plays written by women have been more apt to focus on how well these playwrights’ works accord with modern feminist understandings of female desire than on how women dramatists’ texts complicate and corroborate the political discourse of the day. This dissertation treats late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century sexual and partisan discourse as inextricably intertwined. Reconstructing the tumultuous political context in which Restoration and early eighteenth-century women wrote, The Politics of Desire shows that these playwrights’ comedies make important—and heretofore unrecognized—interventions into the political landscape of the day. In chapters that focus on courtesans and bawds, cheating wives, female gamblers, and pandered wives, this dissertation examines the ways that Aphra Behn, Mary Pix, Susanna Centlivre, and Eliza Haywood reframe partisan discourse about particular types of sexualized women. Ultimately, The Politics of Desire enriches the critical conversation about women playwrights’ comedies, giving these plays the kind of precise, carefully contextualized attention they deserve.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairWaldron, Jenniferjwaldron@pitt.eduJWALDRON
Committee MemberStraub,
Committee MemberTwyning, Johntwyning@pitt.eduTWYNING
Committee MemberWeikle-Mills, Courtneycaw57@pitt.eduCAW57
Date: 27 September 2015
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 1 May 2015
Approval Date: 27 September 2015
Submission Date: 10 August 2015
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 198
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Aphra Behn, Mary Pix, Susanna Centlivre, Eliza Haywood, Restoration comedy, eighteenth-century drama
Date Deposited: 28 Sep 2015 00:49
Last Modified: 27 Sep 2020 05:15


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