The Female Thermometer: Eighteenth-Century Culture and the Invention of the Uncanny
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.
About the Author
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 Lesbian: Female Homosexuality and Modern Culture (1993); The Female Thermometer: Eighteenth-Century Culture and the Invention of the Uncanny (1995), Noel Coward and Radclyffe Hall: Kindred Spirits (1996); Boss Ladies, Watch Out! Essays on Women, Sex, and Writing (2002); Courage, Mon Amie (2002), and The Professor: A Sentimental Education (2010). She is the editor of a prize-winning anthology, The Literature of Lesbianism: A Historical Anthology from Ariosto to Stonewall (2003). Several of her essays have likewise won individual prizes--including the William Riley Parker Prize awarded annually by the Modern Language Association for the best critical essay of the year. In 1995 her book The Female Thermometer was a finalist for the PEN Spielvogel-Diamondstein Award for the Art of the Essay. Her latest book, The Professor, has likewise been named as a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She writes regularly for the London Review of Books, New Republic, Atlantic, Slate, and other magazines and journals.
Castle is also a visual artist and collector of tintypes, anonymous photos, Outsider Art, vintage postcards, art zines, artists' books, and other paper ephemera. Some of her own artwork can be seen on her blog Fevered Brain Productions, Instagram, and SaatchiArt.
Other info links:
- A Postcard Almanac (devoted to my collections of vintage postcards, anonymous photos, trade cards, and other sorts of historical paper ephemera)