Understanding experience
Subjectivity, sex, and suffering in early modern England
in Texts and readers in the Age of Marvell
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Historians of gender and sexuality are finding in court records a trickle of cases of sexual assault on prepubescent girls in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. More interesting still, at least in a Marvellian perspective, is the possibility of detecting self-awareness, subjectivity, and thus even of measuring some meanings of cross-generational erotic attachment in the England of Andrew Marvell. As Marvell knew well, there were many sites and modes of erotic expression and attachment, and thus perhaps of sexualised abuse if not necessarily of sex abuse. One such site, renowned for its conjuncture of fierce power and no less fierce idealisation, was surely the schoolroom. For a brief moment in the later seventeenth century there were thus some who were willing to take seriously the abuse sustained by the child.


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