The Language of the Eyes

Science, Sexuality, and Female Vision in English Literature and Culture, 1690-1927

By Daryl Ogden

Subjects: Women's Studies, Feminist, English Literature, Cultural Studies, Literary Criticism
Series: SUNY series in Feminist Criticism and Theory
Paperback : 9780791465004, 286 pages, June 2006
Hardcover : 9780791464991, 286 pages, July 2005

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations


Introduction: A Feminine Language of the Eyes?

1. The Conduct of the Eyes: Feminine Discourses of Vision in Eighteenth-Century England


Case Study 1. Lesbian Vision in Clarissa


2. Ocular Reproduction, Sexual Difference, and Romantic Vision


Case Study 2. Domestic and Sexual Vision in Adam Bede


3. The Descent of Sexual Selection: Evolution and the Politics of Female Vision in Victorian England


Case Study 3. Female Spectatorship and Sexual Selection in Far from the Madding Crowd


4. Sigmund Freud, Virginia Woolf, and the Modernist Female Spectator


Case Study 4. Feminine Epistemology and Visual Desire in To the Lighthouse


Conclusion: Clarissa Dalloway and Modern Female Visuality in England




Recovers a dynamic women’s tradition of vision and sexuality, challenging Darwinian and Freudian accounts of women as nonvisual sexual agents.


While Darwinian and Freudian theories of vision and sexuality have represented women as lacking visual agency, Daryl Ogden's The Language of the Eyes argues that "the gaze" is not merely a masculine phenomenon, and that women have powerfully desiring eyes as well. Ogden offers a comprehensive cultural history of female visuality in England by analyzing scientific writings, conduct books, illustrated periodicals, poetry, painting, and novels, and he makes important and hitherto unrecognized connections between literary history, cultural studies, and science studies. In so doing, Ogden accomplishes what numerous feminist critics—especially film theorists—have not: the recovery of the modern female spectator from historical obscurity.

Daryl Ogden is Executive Director of Project GRAD Long Island.