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

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Cambridge University Press, May 15, 2003 - Literary Criticism - 336 pages
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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Contents

Aphra Behn and Eliza Haywood
23
Sarah Fielding Elizabeth Montagu
58
the bluestockings and Sterne
84
Frances Burney and smallpox
109
our British fair
135
why Imoinda turns white
151
Equiano Sancho and being a man
189
racial counterfeit on stage
213
Notes
257
Bibliography
299
Index
319
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About the author (2003)

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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