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The Female Thermometer: Eighteenth-Century Culture and the Invention of the Uncanny

About the Author

Terry Castle

Terry Castle has taught English literature at Stanford since 1983. She specializes in the history of the novel, especially the works of Defoe, Richardson, Fielding, and Austen.  But she has taught a wide variety of other subjects too:  the literature of the First World War, British modernism, Virginia Woolf, Radclyffe Hall, and other twentieth-century women writers, psychoanalytic theory, literature and opera, and gay and lesbian writing. She has written seven books: Clarissa's Ciphers: Meaning and Disruption in Richardson's 'Clarissa' (1982); Masquerade and Civilization: The Carnivalesque in Eighteenth-Century English Culture and Fiction (1986); The Apparitional...

Oxford University Press
1996

The work of leading scholar Terry Castle, called by the New York Times “always engaging…consistently fascinating,” has helped to revolutionize eighteenth-century studies. The Female Thermometer brings together Castle’s essays on the phantasmagoric side of eighteenth-century literature and culture. Taking as her emblem the fanciful “female thermometer,” an imaginary instrument invented by eighteenth-century satirists to measure levels of female sexual arousal, Castle explores what she calls the “impinging strangeness” of the eighteenth-century imagination–the way the rationalist imperatives of the age paradoxically worked to produce what Freud would later call the uncanny. In essays on doubling and fantasy in the novels of Defoe and Richardson, sexual impersonators and the dream-like world of the eighteenth-century masquerade, magic-lantern shows, automata, and other surreal inventions of Enlightenment science, and the hallucinatory obsessions of Gothic fiction, Castle offers a haunting portrait of a remarkable epoch.