Women in Victorian England wore jewelry made from each other's hair and wrote poems celebrating decades of friendship. They pored over magazines that described the dangerous pleasures of corporal punishment. A few had sexual relationships with each other, exchanged rings and vows, willed each other property, and lived together in long-term partnerships described as marriages. But, as Sharon Marcus shows, these women were not seen as gender outlaws. Their desires were fanned by consumer culture, and their friendships and unions were accepted and even encouraged by family, society, and church. Far from being sexless angels defined only by male desires, Victorian women openly enjoyed looking at and even dominating other women. Their friendships helped realize the ideal of companionate love between men and women celebrated by novels, and their unions influenced politicians and social thinkers to reform marriage law.
Through a close examination of literature, memoirs, letters, domestic magazines, and political debates, Marcus reveals how relationships between women were a crucial component of femininity. Deeply researched, powerfully argued, and filled with original readings of familiar and surprising sources, Between Women overturns everything we thought we knew about Victorian women and the history of marriage and family life. It offers a new paradigm for theorizing gender and sexuality--not just in the Victorian period, but in our own.
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"Between Women literally shifts our understanding of how the history of sexuality and gender norms ought to be written. Sharon Marcus's groundbreaking text finally offers us a framework for thinking about the social and sexual bonds among women and their centrality to the history of gender, sexuality, marriage, and the family. Working with a wide array of texts, Marcus brilliantly shows how literary studies can enter into both social history and contemporary politics. Her final reflections on gay and lesbian marriage make clear the high stakes and pressing conceptual implications for our time of this kind of critical and capacious work."--Judith Butler, University of California, Berkeley
"This magnificent and impressive book offers us what Foucault would have called a 'history of the present': not only does it completely transform our perception of the past, but, in so doing, it also newly illuminates the debates and struggles that are ours, today."--Didier Eribon, author of Michel Foucault and Insult and the Making of the Gay Self
"Between Women significantly revises conventional wisdom about Victorian female friendships, desire, and marriage. To tell this story, Marcus has studied women's life writings, canonical fiction, fashion magazines, doll stories, and anthropological texts of the period. The result is intellectually stunning and wonderfully entertaining."--Judith R. Walkowitz, Johns Hopkins University
"Between Women is not only a first-rate Victorianist study, it is also the most original work on gender and sexuality to appear in years--one that promises to shake up feminist theory and queer theory in all the right ways. A densely researched book, as academically sound as it is intellectually thrilling."--Diana Fuss, Princeton University
"This is a superb work of scholarship, beautifully conceived and written, that will change our views of Victorian women, men, society, and culture. Sharon Marcus's argument that the Victorians viewed intense and passionate female relationships as a vital precursor and stimulus for heterosexual marriage is persuasive. What she has accomplished is the most difficult of intellectual projects: seeing what is in plain sight and yet has not been noticed because of our cultural preconceptions, and then using her findings to recast an entire field."--Bonnie S. Anderson, City University of New York
Sharon Marcus is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. She is the author of "Apartment Stories: City and Home in Nineteenth-Century Paris and London".
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Book Description Princeton University Press, 2007. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0691128200