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Chapter 2 - “By One of the Fair Sex”

Irony, Sovereignty, and Sexual Difference

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 January 2022

Shane Herron
Affiliation:
Flinders University of South Australia
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Summary

Chapter 2 explores how Behn’s works use earnest commitments to heighten and refine her more traditional satirical attacks on political enemies, resulting in complex and multilayered subversive ironies: it is often Behn’s insistence on affirming certain political commitments that endows her work with its acerbic bite. Her supposedly conservative fictions antedate, rather than satirically reacting against, the later more progressive, Whiggish novels, and her works thereby demonstrate the complex symbiotic relationship between irony and earnestness. In her work, satiric attack functions not simply as a way of denigrating enemies, but also as a means of inoculating and immunizing creative energy against possible attack. Her satire on the Whigs also has an earnest dimension, implicitly praising a new model for sovereignty that identifies it closely with women’s vulnerable positions in a patriarchal world. This earnest deployment of satire emerges as Behn engages the problem of actresses and women in the theater more generally to emphasize her subtle differences with some of her male peers and to reimagine Tory politics from their perspective.

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Chapter
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Irony and Earnestness in Eighteenth-Century Literature
Dimensions of Satire and Solemnity
, pp. 54 - 84
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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  • “By One of the Fair Sex”
  • Shane Herron, Flinders University of South Australia
  • Book: Irony and Earnestness in Eighteenth-Century Literature
  • Online publication: 19 January 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108993227.003
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  • “By One of the Fair Sex”
  • Shane Herron, Flinders University of South Australia
  • Book: Irony and Earnestness in Eighteenth-Century Literature
  • Online publication: 19 January 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108993227.003
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • “By One of the Fair Sex”
  • Shane Herron, Flinders University of South Australia
  • Book: Irony and Earnestness in Eighteenth-Century Literature
  • Online publication: 19 January 2022
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108993227.003
Available formats
×