1st Edition

Castration, Impotence, and Emasculation in the Long Eighteenth Century

By Anne Leah Greenfield Copyright 2020
    254 Pages 17 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    254 Pages 17 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This essay collection examines one of the most fearsome, fascinating, and hotly-discussed topics of the long eighteenth century: masculinity compromised. During this timespan, there was hardly a literary or artistic genre that did not feature unmanning regularly and prominently: from harrowing tales of castrations in medical treatises, to emasculated husbands in stage comedies, to sympathetic and powerful eunuchs in prose fiction, to glorious operatic performances by castrati in Italy, to humorous depictions in caricature and satirical paintings, to fearsome descriptions of Eastern eunuchs in travel narratives, to foolish and impotent old men who became a mainstay in drama. Not only does this unprecedented study of unmanning (in all of its varied forms) illustrate the sheer prevalence of a trope that featured prominently across literary and artistic genres, but it also demonstrates the ways diminished masculinity reflected some of the most strongly-held anxieties, interests, and values of eighteenth-century Britons.

    Chapter 1: "Unmanning" by Anne Greenfield

    Section 1: Sexual Impotence

    Chapter 2: "Body Explanations and the Meaning of Impotence in Early Modern England" by Amanda L. Capern and Judith Spicksley

    Chapter 3: "The Impotent Husband: Debility and Discord in Ned Ward’s Nuptial Dialogues" by Leah Benedict

    Section 2: Eunuchs and Orientalism

    Chapter 4: "The Fetish, the Phallus, the Fantasy: Orientalism, Symbolic Castration, and the Eighteenth-Century Imaginary" by Nathan Gorelick

    Chapter 5: "Eunuchs, Mutes, and the Performance of Anxiety in Orientalist Plays" by Beth Cortese

    Chapter 6: "Showing the Eunuch: Disability, Sexuality, and Dryden’s All for Love" by Jeremy Chow

    Section 3: Symbolic Unmanning

    Chapter 7: "Refining the Aura of Subversively Symbolic Castrations: Examining the Depictions of Violent Unmanning in Macklin’s English Bible" by William Levine

    Chapter 8: "Women Running with Scissors: Consummating Castration Anxiety in The Feign’d Courtesans" by Danielle Menge

    Chapter 9: "Masculinity, Performance Anxiety, and Literary Impotence in Charlotte Charke’s The History of Henry Dumont" by Mary Beth Harris

    Section 4: Italian Castrati

    Chapter 10: "Between History and Fiction: Representation of Castrati in Gérard Corbiau’s Film, Farinelli, Il Castrato (1994)" by Jeongwon Joe

    Chapter 11: "When Performing Gender Is Non-Conforming: The Need for Archives in the Practice of Theory" by Katherine Arens


    Anne Greenfield is Associate Professor of English at Valdosta State University. She is editor of the book collection Interpreting Sexual Violence: 1660-1800, and she has published articles on Restoration and eighteenth-century literature, especially drama. She is Editor-in-Chief of the journal Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Theatre Research.