A Neutral Being Between the Sexes: Samuel Johnson's Sexual Politics

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Bucknell University Press, 1998 - 155 pages
Samuel Johnson's image in the popular imagination - that of a swaggering misogynist, a denigrator of women and their abilities - is based largely on frequently repeated quotations gleaned from Boswell's famous Life. By contrast, in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, many women intellectuals who were familiar with Johnson's works considered him a champion of women, an able defender in the ongoing debate about female nature and ability that had been going on since the middle ages, the querelle des femmes. In this study, Kathleen Nulton Kemmerer reclaims this earlier image of Johnson as a strong advocate of women's education, full participation in intellectual life, and full equality with men for the happiness of all society. Set in the context of gender expectations and prejudices in the eighteenth century, Kemmerer's work illuminates Johnson's contribution to the debate that still rages over whether men or women are more responsible for making life miserable. Johnson's ultimate answer is that the errors and expectations of both sexes play a large part, but that eliminating stereotypes and fostering a spirit of cooperation and respect between men and women would make life much more pleasant for all.
 

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Contents

Almost excluded from happiness Johnson on Women and Marriage
23
Must then Ambitions votaries break the bonds of nature? Sexual Politics in Irene
38
A neutral being between the sexes Rhetorical Strategy in The Rambler
59
To write like a woman Female Personae in The Rambler
78
The endearing elegance of female friendship Equality and Sexual Difference in Rasselas
93
When was powr beneficent in vain?
116
Notes
122
Works Cited
143
Index
153
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Page 13 - I could not find words to express what I felt upon this unexpected and very great mark of his affectionate regard. Next day, Sunday, July 31, I told him I had been that morning at a meeting of the people called Quakers, where I had heard a woman preach. JOHNSON. " Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well ; but you are surprised to find it done at all.
Page 26 - ... friendship, that among the multitudes whom vanity or curiosity, civility or veneration, crowded about him, he did not expect, that very spacious apartments would be necessary to contain all that should regard him with sincere kindness, or adhere to him with steady fidelity. So many qualities are indeed requisite to the possibility of friendship, and so many accidents must concur to its rise and its continuance, that the greatest part of mankind content themselves without it, and supply its place...

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