In the first full-length study of the figure of the female libertine in late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century literature, Laura Linker examines heroines appearing in literature by John Dryden, Aphra Behn, Catharine Trotter, Delariviere Manley, and Daniel Defoe. Linker argues that this figure, partially inspired by Epicurean ideas found in Lucretius's De rerum natura, interrogates gender roles and assumptions and emerges as a source of considerable tension during the late Stuart and early Georgian periods. Witty and rebellious, the female libertine becomes a frequent satiric target because of her transgressive sexuality. As a result of negative portrayals of lady libertines, women writers begin to associate their libertine heroines with the pathos figures they read in French texts of sensibilité. Beginning with a discussion of Charles II's mistresses, Linker shows that these women continue to serve as models for the female libertine in literature long after their "reigns" at court ended. Her study places the female libertine within her cultural, philosophical, and literary contexts and suggests new ways of considering women's participation and the early novel, which prominently features female libertines as heroines of sensibility.
Laura Linker is a lecturer in the Department of English at North Carolina State University, USA, and teaches courses on libertinism at Duke University.
’Dangerous Women’s overall claim is an important one. The idea that libertinism and sensibility are connected allows Linker to bring light previously obscured links between the two modes, and in so doing, yields a fresh perspective on both.’ Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Theatre Research '... the most delightful, and perhaps unanticipated, aspect of Linker’s thesis is her ability to draw connections between the community of women writers, showing how each woman author builds upon the previous one. Linker thus simultaneously traces the development of the female libertine while also demonstrating the impact of women-authored novels of sensibility on each other.' Women’s Writing 'Ms. Linker’s book includes many excellent analyses of texts... Readers looking for intelligent discussions of important texts and a provocative thesis about changes in female characters should read this book.' The Scriblerian 'Dangerous Women, Libertine Epicures, and the Rise of Sensibility, 1670-1730 is a meticulously researched work that traces the development of the different types of female libertines through a consideration of numerous texts. ...The connections Linker draws between sensibilitié and libertinism presents readers with a new and significant perspective on the philosophical, political, and cultural forces that influenced the presentation of the female libertine in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century British Literature.' 1650-1850: Ideas, Aesthetics, and Inquiries in the Early Modern Era 'Linker’s study offers a nuanced etiology of the figure of the female libertine from her first appearance on the Restoration stage to her continued appearance in the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century novel... [Linker’s] research is solid. Moreover, Linker’s prose is lucid: several of my undergraduates in a seminar on Restoration drama found her work helpful and accessible. I look forward to referring to Linker’s etiology of the female libertine next seme