In The Ideology of Conduct, first published in 1987,scholars from various fields, from the medieval period to the present day, discuss literature in which the sole purpose is to instruct women in how to make themselves desirable.
This collection investigates how middle-class writers who had long emulated the behaviour of the aristocracy began to criticise that behaviour by formulating an alternative object of desire. They did so without appearing to breed political controversy because it seemed to concern only the female. But writing for and about women in fact became a powerful instrument of hegemony as it introduced a whole new vocabulary for social relations, induced certain forms of economic behaviour as desirable in men and women respectively, and insured the reproduction of the nuclear family. It is argued, therefore, that the literature of conduct not only recorded but also assisted the production of our contemporary gender-based culture.
The literature of conduct, the conduct of literature, and the politics of desire: an introduction Nancy Armstrong and Leonard Tennenhouse; 1. Medieval courtesy literature and dramatic mirrors of female conduct Kathleen M. Ashley 2. Nets and bridles: early modern conduct books and sixteenth-century women’s lyrics Ann Rosalind Jones 3. Defoe’s idea of conduct: ideological fictions and fictional reality Carol Houlihan Flynn 4. The rise of the domestic woman Nancy Armstrong 5. Educating women: Laclos and the conduct of sexuality Thomas M. Kavanagh 6. Wild nights: pleasure/sexuality/feminism Cora Kaplan 7. Modes of modern shopping: Mallarmé at the Bon Marché Rachel Bowlby 8. The beauty system Dean MacCannel and Juliet Flower MacCannell; Index
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