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Unauthorized Pleasures: Accounts of Victorian Erotic Experience Paperback – April 17, 2003

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Editorial Reviews


"This most original book is impressive for its penetrating research, thoroughness, scope, objectivity, and personality"The last a rare feature in such a scholarly book. A feminist critic, Rosenman focuses on texts, fiction and nonfiction, that exemplify some aspect of the Victorian attitude toward sex, examining the interplay between gender roles, class, cultural norms, and literary conventions."—Choice, November 2003

"Unauthorized Pleasures is engaging, at times fascinating. . . . As a resource for the authors who would like to paint a richer, more nuanced picture of Victorian sexuality, I would recommend this book, which packs a world of fascinating detail in its two hundred pages."—Lisabet Sarai, Erotica Readers and Writers Association

"Oh, those wacky Victorians. No other culture has ever had so many neurotic anxieties with sex (except possibly their own). Ellen Bayuck Rosenman traces the most prominent of these issues. . .through the written evidence, and proposes some fascinating theories to explain not only how and why these issues exist, but also what service the 'issue-ization' of them performs for the culture as a whole. What these issues reveal about cultural anxieties, how they marginalize (or maintain the divisions between) genders, races and classes, and how they challenge simplistic notions of Victorian prudery are all explicated brilliantly by Rosenman's analysis. . . . As a final note, I must commend Rosenman for her remarkable honesty. . .as well as for her refreshing sense of humor—without sacrificing any academic or intellectual integrity. What Rosenman has done in this volume is what she claims is the work done by the texts she analyzes. . . . It seems that the more we understand about the Victorians, the more we understand about ourselves."—Julianne White, English Studies Forum

"Rosenman's book . . . conveys an unfailing enthusiasm for often ignored varieties of Victorian sexual expression. . . . The texts Rosenman discusses allow her to demonstrate her major themes: that men, like women, also felt threatened by sex and an objectifying gaze, that women found ways to express their sexuality, that men found ways to express homoerotic desires, and that pornography opened up possibilities—at least on the imaginative level—for female sexual agency and egalitarian sex between men and women."—Deborah Epstein Nord, Victorian Studies, Summer 2004

"In her lively revisionary account Ellen Rosenman demonstrates the richness and variety of Victorian sexual practice and discourse. . . . The most rewarding parts of this highly astute book are perhaps her dashingly entertaining accounts of the Yelverton marriage case (chapter 4) and of My Secret Life (chapter 5). Rosenman is wonderfully sure-footed in tracing the complex ambiguities and contradictions thrown up by Theresa Longworth's deployment of literary and melodramatic tropes in her legal and sexual pursuit of the attractive, shallow and devious Charles Yelverton in a legal case spiced with issues of sexuality, class and female 'self-fashioning'. She is also equal to the endless erotic tableaux rehearsed by 'Walter' in My Secret Life, of which she offers a most enjoyable and pertinent account. In general, Unauthorized Pleasures builds energetically upon earlier work on Victorian sexual identities, and is expert at stressing the provisionality and fluidity of those identities, offering the reader indeed a variety of pleasurable subject positions."—Roger Ebbatson, British Association for Victorian Studies Book Reviews

"I found this an extremely engrossing book, unflaggingly intelligent, lucid, and witty. Timely and distinctive in its analysis of Victorian sexuality, it draws on a broad array of prose representation, familiar and obscure, literary as well as more broadly social and legal. I think it will be greeted, both in and out of academia, as an exciting and important contribution to an area of tremendous current interest."—James Eli Adams, Cornell University

"In this engaging book, Ellen Rosenman takes us on a lively tour of the erotic byways of Victorian Britain. Adopting an idiosyncratic approach to her subject, Rosenman acquaints her readers with a rich and multifaceted continuum of desires. With specific and memorable detail, Rosenman gives us a new appreciation for the amatory exuberance and excess of the age."—Elizabeth Langland, University of California, Davis

About the Author

Ellen Bayuk Rosenman is Associate Professor of English at the University of Kentucky. She is the author of The Invisible Presence: Virginia Woolf and the Mother-Daughter Relationship and A Room of One’s Own: Women Writers and the Politics of Creativity. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (April 17, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801488567
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801488566
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,337,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Stalkingtree on February 15, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The title is misleading. This book is more a history of erotica than anything else. If that's what you want its a good book. If you want something similar to Autobiography of a Flea etc then you will be dissapointed.
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