• Jewett's Natural History of Sexuality

    Travis M. Foster (see profile)
    LLC 19th-Century American, LLC Late-19th- and Early-20th-Century American, TC Sexuality Studies, TC Women’s and Gender Studies
    Regionalism, United States, Queer theory, Freud, Sigmund, 1856-1939, Evolution (Biology), Ecocriticism
    Item Type:
    Sarah Orne Jewett, A Country Doctor, Etiology, Psychogenesis of a Case of Homosexuality in a Woman, American regionalism, Freud, Darwinism
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    In this article I ask what happens if we consider Jewett, who spent most of her adult life at the epicenter of New England intellectual culture, as a pivotal figure in the Western history of theorizing sexuality, and her 1884 novel, A Country Doctor, as a significant document in the history of theorizing sexual and gender deviation, perfectly poised in between the sea changes of evolutionary biology and Freudian psychoanalysis. Jewett’s fiction tends to get treated within a history of representing queerness, a focus that occludes her contributions to the history of ideas for understanding queer life and queer flourishing. Rather than understanding her as a historian and theorist in her own right, Jewett has been made to speak as evidence for the histories and theories of others. Yet positioning Jewett within the history of queer ideas reveals her to be to be among the first to apply Darwinian insights to questions that psychoanalysis would later take up about human sexual behavior and expressive variation. By exposing an undercurrent of what we might call ecological understanding that runs through twentieth-century models for the formation of gay identity, Jewett invites us to recognize Darwin’s subtle influence on Freudian thought and offers an alternative model to conceptualizations of sexual behavior that rest on interior subjectivity.
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    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    4 years ago
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