Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century English Comedies as a New Kind of Drama: A Foucauldian Interpretation of Family Relations, Sexuality, and Resistance as Psychological Power

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This book opens new ways to study a literary genre that has been neglected far too long, and one misunderstood by many. For centuries the Restoration and its comedy have been ignored and rejected by critics and audiences in general. This study sheds new light on this period of drama by revealing how the general chaos that the passage from a pre-modern to a modern society supposed, the uncertainty and the unpredictability of a transitional period in the history of the country and also its deeper social and political message.


“One of the great merits of this work is that, Dr. Martínez-García offers her own “reconstruction” of the Restoration from a Foucauldian perspective, which allows her to rediscover the 17th and 18th centuries…we have on our hands, undoubtedly, an important piece of research in the field of Restoration drama: an ambitious study of the hard and complex struggle for power between the sexes in the 17th and 18th centuries.”
-Dr. María José Álvarez Faedo,
University of Oviedo

“The book engages with the plays at great length in order to demonstrate their nuanced take on social, sexual, familial and gendered relationships…Some of the best work here demonstrates how the plays eschew an ordering dynamic, and hence how they are at odds with the dominant social discourse of their time.”
-Dr. Jerome de Groot,
School of Arts, Histories and Cultures,
University of Manchester, UK

“ will be an invaluable tool in the study of the literary period it covers, as well as a fundamental aid in the understanding of these three authors and their social and literary milieu.”
-Dr. Francisco J. Borge,
Deputy Head of the Department of English, French and German Philology,
Universidad de Oviedo, Spain

Table of Contents

1. The plays in context: history, literature and criticism

1.1 The question of naming: Restoration comedy, comedy of manners and sentimental comedy
1.2 Restoration comedy of manners: history and criticism
1.2.1 Britain in the 17th century: a historical contextualization
1.2.2 Forgetting the past: Wycherley, Etherege and Centlivre and literary criticism
2. Reconstructing the Restoration
2.1 Restoration comedy and the analytics of power
2.2 Rediscovering the 17th and 18th centuries
3. Power, sexuality and resistance: identity in Restoration comedy
3.1 Power, identity and perspective sexualities
3.1.1 The construction of the ideal man: fashioning prescriptive Manhood Gender Boundaries: biology and Philosophy Phases of life: Age and marital status Constructing manhood: Honor and sexual behavior
3.1.2 The construction of the ideal woman: Fashioning prescriptive Womanhood Gender Boundaries: Biology and Philosophy Phases of life: Age and marital status Constructing womanhood: Honour and sexual behavior
3.1.3 Conclusion
4. Power and the family: patriarchy and social order
4.1 The deployment of alliance
4.1.1 Parents and children, brothers and sisters
4.1.2 Husbands and wives, lovers
4.1.3 Conclusion
4.2 The deployment of sexuality
4.2.1 Husbands and wives, lovers
4.2.2 Conclusion
4.3 Conclusion
5. Power and resistance: disruptive identities
5.1 Social misfits: Unlikely men and women
5.1.1 Fictional characters Male and female libertines, eunuchs Male gossips, meek men and fops Jealous women and men, cuckolds Witty heroines The New Gentlemen-Rakes
5.1.2 Performing the role of the playwright “Gentle” George and “Manly” Wycherley: the libertines The myth of the “Celebrated” Mrs. Centlivre: the female wit Conclusions
5.2 Unconventional conventions: the Spanish model and “happy” endings
5.2.1 Centlivre and the Spanish model
5.2.2 Comedy of manners and “Happy” endings
5.3 Conclusion
6. General conclusions: From the Leprosarium to the Panopticon
7. Index

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