This essay collection examines one of the most fearsome, fascinating, and hotly-discussed topics of the long eighteenth century: masculinity compromised. During this timespan, there was hardly a literary or artistic genre that did not feature unmanning regularly and prominently: from harrowing tales of castrations in medical treatises, to emasculated husbands in stage comedies, to sympathetic and powerful eunuchs in prose fiction, to glorious operatic performances by castrati in Italy, to humorous depictions in caricature and satirical paintings, to fearsome descriptions of Eastern eunuchs in travel narratives, to foolish and impotent old men who became a mainstay in drama. Not only does this unprecedented study of unmanning (in all of its varied forms) illustrate the sheer prevalence of a trope that featured prominently across literary and artistic genres, but it also demonstrates the ways diminished masculinity reflected some of the most strongly-held anxieties, interests, and values of eighteenth-century Britons.
Anne Greenfield is Associate Professor of English at Valdosta State University. She is editor of the book collection Interpreting Sexual Violence: 1660-1800, and she has published articles on Restoration and eighteenth-century literature, especially drama. She is Editor-in-Chief of the journal Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Theatre Research.