Good Reads for the Dog Days of Summer





Travelling in Different Skins: Gender Identity in European Women’s Oriental Travelogues, 1850-1950

Bird, Dunlaith

Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (September 7, 2012)

Summary

Dunlaith Bird argues that vagabondage – a physical and textual elaboration of gender identity in motion – emerges as a totemic concept in European women’s travel writing from 1850. For travellers including Olympe Audouard, Isabella Bird, Isabelle Eberhardt, and Freya Stark,vagabondage is a means of pushing out the physical, geographical, and textual parameters by which ‘women’ are defined.

Travelling in Different Skins explores the negotiations of European women travel writers from 1850-1950 within the traditionally male-oriented discourses of colonialism and Orientalism. Moving from historical overview to close textual reading, it traces a complex web of tacit collusion and gleeful defiance. These women improvise access to the highly gendered ‘imaginative geography’ of the Orient. Tactics including cross-dressing, commerciality, and the effacement of their male companions are used to carve out a space for their unconventional and often sexually-hybrid constructions.

Using a composite theoretical basis of the later critical work of Judith Butler and Edward Said, this comparative study of British and French colonial empires and gender norms draws out the nuances in these travellers’ constructions of gender identity. Women travel writers are shown to play an important role in the legacy of sexual experimentation and self-creation in the Orient, traditionally associated with male writers including Gide and Pierre Loti, and now ripe for critical re-evaluation. This study demonstrates how these women use lived experiences of restriction and negotiation to elaborate advanced theories of motion and gender construction, presaging the concerns of twenty-first century feminism and post-colonialism.


Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism

Henrik Bogdan and Martin P. Starr

Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (September 5, 2012)

Summary

This volume is the first comprehensive examination of one of the twentieth century’s most distinctive iconoclasts. Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) was a study in contradictions. Born into a fundamentalist Christian family and educated at Cambridge, he was vilified as a traitor, drug addict, and debaucher, yet revered as perhaps the most influential thinker in contemporary esotericism. Moving beyond the influence of contemporary psychology and the modernist understanding of the occult, Crowley declared himself the revelator of a new age of individualism. Crowley’s occult bricolage, Magick, was an eclectic combination of spiritual exercises drawn from Western European magical ceremonies and Indic sources for meditation and yoga. This journey of self-liberation culminated in harnessing sexual power as a magical discipline, a “sacrilization of the self” as practiced in Crowley’s mixed masonic group, the Ordo Templi Orientis. The religion Crowley created, Thelema, legitimated his role as a charismatic revelator and herald of a new age of freedom. Aleister Crowley’s lasting influence can be seen in the counter-culture movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s and in many forms of alternative spirituality and popular culture. The essays in this volume offer crucial insight into Crowley’s foundational role in the study of Western esotericism, new religious movements, and sexuality.

In Bed with the Tudors: From Elizabeth of York to Elizabeth I

Licence, Amy

Publisher: Amberley (August 2012)

Summary

The first ever book on the sex lives of the Tudors? Comprehensive coverage of all the major Tudors: Henry VII, Elizabeth of York, Prince Arthur, Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, Catherine Parr, Henry VIII’s various mistresses, Edward VI, Mary Tudor and Elizabeth ILearn what went on behind closed doors in the Tudor court. Illegitimate children, adulterous queens, impotent kings, and a whole dynasty resting on their shoulders. Sex and childbirth were quite literally a matter of life or death for the Tudors – Elizabeth of York died in childbirth, two of Henry VIII’s queens were beheaded for infidelity, and Elizabeth I’s elective virginity signaled the demise of a dynasty.Amy Licence guides the reader through the births of Henry VII and Elizabeth of York’s two sons, Arthur and Henry, Catherine of Aragon’s subsequent marriages to both of these men, Henry VIII’s other five wives and his mistresses, and the sex lives of his daughters. This book details the experiences of all these women, from fertility, conception and pregnancy through to the delivery chamber, on to maternal and infant mortality. Each woman’s story is a blend of specific personal circumstances, set against their historical moment: for some the joys were brief, for others it was a question that ultimately determined their fates.


The Sick Child in Early Modern England, 1580-1720

Newton, Hannah

Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (June 18, 2012)

Summary

The Sick Child in Early Modern England is a powerful exploration of the treatment, perception, and experience of illness in childhood, from the late sixteenth to the early eighteenth centuries. At this time, the sickness or death of a child was a common occurrence – over a quarter of young people died before the age of fifteen – and yet this subject has received little scholarly attention.

Hannah Newton takes three perspectives: first, she investigates medical understandings and treatments of children. She argues that a concept of ‘children’s physic’ existed amongst doctors and laypeople: the young were thought to be physiologically distinct, and in need of special medicines. Secondly, she examines the family’s’ experience, demonstrating that parents devoted considerable time and effort to the care of their sick offspring, and experienced feelings of devastating grief upon their illnesses and deaths. Thirdly, she takes the strikingly original viewpoint of sick children themselves, offering rare and intimate insights into the emotional, spiritual, physical, and social dimensions of sickness, pain, and death.

Newton asserts that children’s experiences were characterised by profound ambivalence: whilst young patients were often tormented by feelings of guilt, fears of hell, and physical pain, sickness could also be emotionally and spiritually uplifting, and invited much attention and love from parents. Drawing on a wide array of printed and archival sources, The Sick Child is of vital interest to scholars working in the interconnected fields of the history of medicine, childhood, parenthood, bodies, emotion, pain, death, religion, and gender.

Women Writing History in Early Modern England

Matchinske, Megan

Publisher: Cambridge University Press (August 6, 2012)

Summary

In 1603 an English gentlewoman, Elizabeth Grymeston, composed for her young son a series of meditations – meditations that would offer posthumous advice and reflection on everything from the nature of sin to the limits of royal authority. Six months later Grymeston was dead and her words memorialized not just for a small boy but also for an English audience eager for moral edification and enlightenment. As one of the first writers of the mother’s legacy to appear in England, Grymeston looked to history to find her answers. Using life experience as her witness, she drew immediate and powerful connections between yesterday’s actions and tomorrow’s possibilities. She was not alone – throughout the seventeenth century, scores of Englishwomen did likewise, exploring in their own ‘histories’ the shifting relationships between past and future. This 2009 book focuses on this dynamic exchange, asking us to look seriously at the ends of history.





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