The Limits of the Human

The Limits of the Human : Fictions of Anomaly, Race and Gender in the Long Eighteenth Century

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In this book, Felicity Nussbaum examines literary and cultural representations of human difference in England and its empire during the long eighteenth century. With a special focus on women's writing, Nussbaum analyzes canonical and lesser-known novels and plays from the Restoration to abolition. She considers a range of anomalies (defects, disease, and disability) as they intermingle with ideas of femininity, masculinity, and race to define 'normalcy' as national identity. Incorporating writings by Behn, Burney, and the Bluestockings, as well as Southerne, Shaftesbury, Johnson, Sterne, and Equiano, Nussbaum treats a range of disabilities - being mute, blind, lame - and physical oddities such as eunuchism and giantism as they are inflected by emerging notions of a racial femininity and masculinity. She shows that these corporeal features, perceived as aberrant and extraordinary, combine in the popular imagination to reveal a repertory of differences located between the extremes of splendid and horrid novelty.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 350 pages
  • 153 x 229 x 22mm | 456g
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 23 Halftones, unspecified
  • 0521016428
  • 9780521016421
  • 1,396,732

Table of contents

List of illustrations; Acknowledgments; Introduction: monstrous tales; Part I. Anomaly and Gender: 1. Fictions of defect: Aphra Behn and Eliza Haywood; 2. Effeminacy and femininity: Sarah Fielding, Elizabeth Montagu, and Johnson; 3. Odd women, mangled men: the bluestockings and Sterne; 4. Scarred women: Frances Burney and smallpox; Part II. Race and Gender: 5. Racial femininity: 'Our British Fair'; 6. Black women: why Imoinda turns white; 7. Black men: Equiano, Sancho, and being a man; 8. Black parts: racial counterfeit on stage; Coda: between races.
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Review quote

"The moral impetus and humane sensibility of The Limits of the Human are evident . . ." Studies in English Literature 1500-1900
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About Felicity A. Nussbaum

Felicity Nussbaum is Professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is the author of Torrid Zones: Maternity, Sexuality and Empire in Eighteenth-Century English Narratives (1995).
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Rating details

7 ratings
4.14 out of 5 stars
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3 29% (2)
2 0% (0)
1 0% (0)
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