Post Coitum Triste

Catherine Burroughs

in The Oxford Handbook of the Elegy

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780199228133
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

Post Coitum Triste

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  • Literature
  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)
  • Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)



This article concentrates on elegiac sexuality in the drama of the eighteenth century. While this article is less concerned with ‘sympathy’, ‘sensibility’, and the kind of ‘sentimentality’ that drama trended towards in the latter quarter of the eighteenth century, it argues that the elegiac sexuality dramatized by post-Restoration and eighteenth-century playwrights can be read as both a class leveler and an attempt to recoup some of what might be regarded as the moral components of libertinism, with its emphasis on frank, unabashed, uninstitutionally-mediated desire. As this brief discussion of a number of well-known eighteenth-century dramas has argued, attempts to discipline the sexual behavior of central characters create a pattern of surprisingly strong attachment to the loss of a vigorous embrace of libidinous heroines and heroes — an embrace brought into clearer view by a focus on elegy and the drama between 1700 and 1800.

Keywords: elegiac sexuality; drama; libertinism; desire; eighteenth-century dramas; libidinous

Article.  6401 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800) ; Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights)

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