John Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (1749) imbricates sexual and aesthetic principles by aligning Fanny's erotic journey with an eighteenth century tourism ritual called the Grand Tour and the practice of connoisseurship. The Grand Tour was, in theory, a ritualized form of continental tourism that acted as the finishing touch to the English gentlemanly education. The tour validated experience as an efficacious vehicle of refinement and erudition. The practice of connoisseurship, the ideological foundation of The Tour, predicated a refined moral sensibility on appreciation of art. The connoisseur's posture of disinterested and detached appreciation of the beautiful posited a universality of taste. The supposed standard of taste attached notions of moral and social superiority to subjective taste in not only aesthetics, but also in entertainment, dress, and even in private sexual practice.
In Memoirs, Fanny takes on the language, position, and opinions of the connoisseur in order to articulate an aestheticized and domesticated sexuality. She does so by collapsing aesthetic principles with sexual practices in her detailed descriptions of bodies and acts, an act which collapses what Fanny sees as pleasurably proper and what she judges as aesthetically pleasing. Fanny valorizes sight as the most delicate, disembodied and reasonable sense in a manner similar to the arbiters of taste of her age. Fanny articulates a connoisseur-like sexual paradigm by positing a sexual paradigm wherein taste and judgment are universal and in-bred in persons with proper sensibility. This project, however, is not without problems. Fanny encounters sexualities and sexual practices that do not fit within her aesthetic paradigm. In a traditional marriage plot ending, Fanny only gives full validation to marital heterosexual intercourse, while maintaining a belief in the inculcating power of experience.
|Commitee:||Cox, Jeffrey, Heydt-Stevenson, Jillian|
|School:||University of Colorado at Boulder|
|School Location:||United States -- Colorado|
|Source:||MAI 46/06M, Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||British and Irish literature|
|Keywords:||Cleland, John, Connoisseuring, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, Sexuality, Touring|
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