Project MUSE – In The Blood: Sentiment, Sex, And The Ugly Girl
Caroline Levander’s excellent rhetorical analysis of Phelps’s novel also highlights “the vast difference in the sexual experiences of working and middle-class women” (110), especially for women seeking pleasure. At the turn of the century, sociologist E. A. Ross, with his doctrine of engineering social change, would argue for a specific kind of birth control predicated on the failure of social reform to fix the nation: “It is not too much to expect that in a few thousand years all hereditary blemish, defect and ugliness will have been bred out of us, so that noble and beautiful beings will be the usual thing. What could be more senseless than that birth control, the one facile means by which the ill-constituted can have a satisfying sex life yet refrain from handing on their defects to offspring, should be branded by religious authorities as God-offending!” Here, Ross articulates in his sociology of sex what is implicit in Phelps’s novel: that reproduction rightly belongs to the eugenically fit, while mere “sex” is for the ugly and dysgenic. 5. That women’s sexuality was recently “rediscovered” for the masses by the new sex experts only heightened the general anxiety about social change, as well as the presence of ever more visibly eroticized men and women.
Writers deployed the discourse of sex-expression for political leverage in a culture stubbornly ambivalent about women’s right to speak. A very similar discourse can be traced to Rebecca Harding Davis and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, both social reformers who employed their fictions in the aid of the working classes. A Consuming Faith: The Social Gospel and Modern American Culture. Should you cherished this short article along with you would want to get details with regards to נערות ליווי ברמת גן kindly stop by the site. 3. Miller renames the designation “middle-brow” as “popular modernism” in order to signify the various media by which the modern self was being negotiated in mass culture (88). She analyzes the way sexuality was created as “style” in the 1920s. 4. This point is Russ Castronovo’s, and with his permission, I am borrowing it here. Both the advent of consumer culture and the failure of social reform movements in the 1880s herald the sexualization of American culture, wherein ugliness ceases to be sexual, while beauty becomes the prerequisite for sex. When these efforts failed, social engineering came into vogue as a way to contain the proliferation of the unruly masses, considered to be reproducing at an unparalleled rate. Whether because of “blood or vice or poverty” (259), the novel of reform depends on an inherent sense that change in the social situation is impossible because of essential differences between social classes.
This recurrence to “blood” and inheritance indexes a cultural anxiety about sexuality. For feminist readers and inheritors of the sentimentalization of sexual culture, the goal is to reimagine and revise the notions of physical worth; to liberate sexuality from its ascription to bloodlines and race; and to sever the eugenic link between beauty/youth and sexuality. From Wharton and Dreiser to Ferber and Fitzgerald, fictions now played out these new fantasies of liberation through sexuality. The work of these popular American women writers–like Anita Loos, Kathleen Norris, and Olive Higgins Prouty–thus came to transcend the ugliness or sordidness associated with sexuality in order to distance sex from its previous association with blood, race, class. So intent is Douglas on describing the culture’s intellectual losses and attributing them to sentiment that she does not address the sexual life that sentimentalism tried to discipline. Phelps is necessarily ambiguous about sexual desire because it threatens her model of cross-class sympathy and the power of sentiment. Yet Phelps does not reject pleasure: both Sip and Perley enjoy the performance of the opera and the musicale at The Blue Plum, two places that are parallel in the novel’s sexual geography. Nynee is saved when her attention turns to Dirk, נערות ליווי Sip’s former suitor, who despairs that his true love Sip will never allow her passion to become physical.
Yet even Sip’s self-assessment is bland נערות ליווי בחולון compared to the narrator’s description of Sip’s dysgenic sister, Catty: “A girl possibly of fifteen years,–a girl with a low forehead, with wandering eyes, with a dull stoop to the head, with long, lithe, magnetic fingers, with a thick, dropping under lip,–a girl walled up and walled in from that labyrinth of sympathies, that difficult evolution of brain from beast, the gorgeous peril of that play at good and evil which we call life, except at the wandering eyes, and at the long, lithe, magnetic fingers. An ugly girl” (86). The only passion that can break through her dysgenic state is Perley Kelso’s sympathy, נערות ליווי בפתח תקווה which she offers “for love’s sake” (88). Rather than charity, acts of sympathy become a confirmation of the “blood” as the source of irreconcilable difference between the leisure and working classes. I want to thank Mary Marchand, נערות ליווי ברמת גן with whom I first explored these ideas in a co-authored conference paper for the Edith Wharton at Yale Conference, April 1995. Perceptive editors and generous critics all–Priscilla Wald, Dana Nelson, Amy Kort, Jean Lutes, Lisa Long, Susan Bernstein, Russ Castronovo, and Joel Pfister–have sympathetically shaped this essay. ALH 10.2 (Summer 1998): 239-65. Curtis, Susan.