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|Title:||Difference Engines: Technology and Gender in Eighteenth-Century Britain|
|Keywords:||restoration, eighteenth century, long eighteenth century, technology, gender, embodiment, selfhood, subjectivity, sexuality|
|Abstract:||In this dissertation, I argue that modern understandings of both technology and gendered selfhood were mutually fashioned across the long eighteenth century. This argument makes a number of interventions in current scholarly narratives by contending, first, that interiorized subjectivity was conceptualized in the eighteenth century as constructed from (and perceptible through) a series of technological objects; second, that as gender difference was increasingly inscribed on bodies thought to be characterized by intrinsic biological variance, the importance of technological supplements to defining bodily capacities meant that this variance was often realized through artificial objects; and third, that the mechanization of the British textile manufacture, which has been identified as the industrial revolution’s catalyst, was premised not on machines’ inherent efficacy, but on the identification of technological ingenuity with a new kind of British masculinity, and a concurrent devaluation of supposedly primitive Indian and British female labourers. In my first chapter, I explore the relationship between optical technologies and stage machinery through a reading of Aphra Behn’s The Emperor of the Moon, arguing that Behn’s play enacts a radical revision of technological empiricism by privileging experiences of feminized spectacular materiality as sites of knowledge. My second chapter traces the afterlife of Restoration mechanical philosophy in Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa, and explores how Clarissa’s interiority is conceptualized by both Lovelace and Richardson as fundamentally technological. In my third chapter I turn to John Cleland’s pornographic Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, showing how the text’s representations of the technologies of textual production are intimately linked with its eroticism and violence. In my final chapter, I analyse a collection of political pamphlets and popular treatises to show how the industrialization of the British cotton manufacture erected a technological nationalism through the mechanical appropriation of women’s labour. By attending to the material, textual, and conceptual operations of eighteenth-century technologies through readings of a wide range of literary and popular works, this project ultimately demonstrates how the boundaries of modern gender difference were constructed along with and out of the body’s most artificial parts.|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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