Masochism and the female gaze
in The hurt(ful) body
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Masochism depends on fantasy, whether acted out or merely imagined, and the fantasy depends on an Other, who witnesses either as an observer or as a participant the suffering, real or imagined, of the fantasist, who in turn feels gratified. This chapter explores the motif of the captivating power of the woman's gaze as part of a wider discourse of male anxiety in early modern literature, a discourse in which, as Nussbaum says in relation to Butler's Hudibras, 'Women use their sexual powers to make foolish men weak and feminine' and the male becomes 'a captive of his own stupidity'. It charts the discursive evolution of the transgressive woman and the foolish man and highlights the male anxiety generated by the female Other. The chapter reviews Theodor Reik's analysis of masochism, which defines two 'constituent elements', fantasy and suspense, of which 'phantasy is the most important'.

The hurt(ful) body

Performing and beholding pain, 1600–1800

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