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Event Title

You Can’t Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too (or Can You?): Gift Exchange, Virginity, and Performance in Eliza Haywood’s Love in Excess

Date

April 2021

Location

Online

Description

While there is a significant body of work written on Eliza Haywood’s 18th-century amatory novels, current scholarship leaves room to explore the concept of virginity as a performative identity within 18th-century British society. This paper, in both conjunction and contrast with prior scholarship, works to locate Haywood’s portrayal of female sexual desire within the context of virginity and chastity as performances and Gayle Rubin’s theory of the exchange of women. In using Rubin’s theory as a framework and acknowledging chastity as performative, this paper argues that virginity in Love in Excess can be read as a tool to determine the value of a woman as an object to exchange, but it can also be read as a mechanism of subversion, a possible device for women to establish themselves as a participatory agent within this exchange rather than simply the gift being exchanged.

Presentation Type

Presentation

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You Can’t Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too (or Can You?): Gift Exchange, Virginity, and Performance in Eliza Haywood’s Love in Excess

Online

While there is a significant body of work written on Eliza Haywood’s 18th-century amatory novels, current scholarship leaves room to explore the concept of virginity as a performative identity within 18th-century British society. This paper, in both conjunction and contrast with prior scholarship, works to locate Haywood’s portrayal of female sexual desire within the context of virginity and chastity as performances and Gayle Rubin’s theory of the exchange of women. In using Rubin’s theory as a framework and acknowledging chastity as performative, this paper argues that virginity in Love in Excess can be read as a tool to determine the value of a woman as an object to exchange, but it can also be read as a mechanism of subversion, a possible device for women to establish themselves as a participatory agent within this exchange rather than simply the gift being exchanged.