‘Each Was Radiant in Her Proper Sphere’: Byron's Theory of Repression from Greece to the ‘Gynocrasy’

Caroline Franklin

in Byron's Heroines

Published in print September 1992 | ISBN: 9780198112303
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191670763 | DOI:
‘Each Was Radiant in Her Proper Sphere’: Byron's Theory of Repression from Greece to the ‘Gynocrasy’

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Lord Byron's poem takes a paradoxical point of view: the text both defensively proclaims its anti-feminist stance and yet also anticipates to some extent the way early socialists would adopt a historical approach to the developing role of women, in arguing against the institution of marriage. The Owenites of the 1830s were influenced by the French socialist, Charles Fourier. This chapter argues that, like Fourier, Byron sees sexual passion as the driving force of power politics — as the psychology of history itself. Byron's sexual satire is Romantic in its stress on the indivisibility of the individual, biologistic in insisting on the common physicality of all humanity as expressed in the libido. However, at the same time essentialism with regard to gender is also interrogated in that the characteristics traditionally associated with sexual difference — masculinity and femininity — are often seen in the poem as secondary, being socially and culturally determined.

Keywords: Lord Byron; Charles Fourier; sexual passion; sexual satire; masculinity; femininity

Chapter.  13985 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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