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Hershey, J. (1975). Female Playwrights of the Eighteenth Century: Shaping the Marketplace of Love. Am. J. Psychoanal., 35(1):69-74.

(1975). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 35(1):69-74

Female Playwrights of the Eighteenth Century: Shaping the Marketplace of Love

Jane Hershey

The theme of love with its spectrum of colorations has traditionally been the subject of masculine discourse in English literature. One can find nearly every point of view on the topic, ranging from the lofty “carpe diem” of Marvell to the more urgent sexual pleas of recent writers like John Osborne. In between lie numerous literary couples, singles, and triangles, all of them living out some man's vision of love with its shades of misery or delight. History, too, plays a vital role in the shaping of these visions; sex roles, though never completely broken down, are constantly being shifted to fit in with the current social structure. When an author depicts the sexual behavior (by sexual behavior, I mean all actions, physical and psychological, that have to do with love, marriage, courtship, lust, etc.) along with the political and/or philosophical behavior of a set of characters, he or she may have added an emotional dimension to the piece of fiction which could create strong emotional responses in an audience. Because of its universality, sexuality in literature is a topic which will always be present, if not always openly discussed.

The period from 1650 to 1750 abounded in works where the issue of sexual conduct and its social implications played a dominant role in the action of the plot. It was largely male authors who constructed the framework of what sex and love should be like in literature. But this century-long span included a good number of female architects as well, women who wrote not simply to pass the time, but for financial gain and with hopes for critical acceptance.

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