Synopses & Reviews
The work of leading scholar Terry Castle, called by the New York Times "always engaging...consistently fascinating," has helped to revolutionize eighteenth-century studies. The Female Thermometer brings together Castle's essays on the phantasmagoric side of eighteenth-century literature and culture. Taking as her emblem the fanciful "female thermometer," an imaginary instrument invented by eighteenth-century satirists to measure levels of female sexual arousal, Castle explores what she calls the "impinging strangeness" of the eighteenth-century imagination--the ways in which the rationalist imperatives of the age paradoxically worked to produce what Freud would later call the uncanny. In essays on doubling and fantasy in the novels of Defoe and Richardson, sexual impersonators and the dream-like world of the eighteenth-century masquerade, magic-lantern shows, automata, and other surreal inventions of Enlightenment science, and the hallucinatory obsessions of Gothic fiction, Castle offers a haunting portrait of a remarkable epoch. Her collection explores the links between material culture, gender, and the rise of modern forms and formulas of subjectivity, effectively rewriting the cultural history of modern Europe from a materialist and feminist perspective.
"The Female Thermometer is filled with incisive observations that make us re-examine the broad preconceptions we hold about the 18th century and reassess some of its specific cultural artifacts."--The New York Times
"Lively new study of 18th-century culture....Intriguing book."--International Herald Tribune
"This is an attractive and important book....There is no essay in this book that isn't a pleasure to read, and none that isn't at the same time supported...by extensive and wide-ranging documentation."--Times Literary Supplement
"The whole collection is informed not only by Castle's wide-ranging erudition... but by her wit and her persuasive and intriguing interpretations. ...she can always take her argument one step further, adding one more turn to the screw. This is a book to be read by specialists in the different authors--Defoe, Richardson, Fielding, Radcliffe--as well as savoured by those interested in eighteenth-century culture and the history of the spectral idea."--Eighteenth-Century Fiction
"Terry Castle is well equipped to explore the dark Other of the age of enlightenment, as her book on masquerade demonstrated. Her knowledge of the back alleys and "no trespassing" byways of the culture is minute and particular; and she can not only produce out-of-the-way facts and figures, publications and performances, but she can brilliantly and convincingly articulate their significance for the culture."--ighteenth-Century Fiction
A collection of the author's essays on the history and development of female identity from the 18th to the early 20th centuries. Throughout the book are woven themes which are constant in Castle's work: fantasy, hallucination, travesty, transgression and sexual ambiguity.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 253-268) and index.
About the Author
is Professor of English at Stanford University. She is the author of The Apparitional Lesbian
(1993) and editor of the Oxford's forthcoming The Literature of Lesbianism: A Historical Anthology