Gender and Performance in the Earl of Rochester’s Imperfect Enjoyment Essay examples

Gender and Performance in the Earl of Rochester’s Imperfect Enjoyment Essay examples

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Literature of the English Restoration offers the example of a number of writers who wrote for a courtly audience: literary production, particularly in learned imitation of classical models, was part of the court culture of King Charles II. The fact of a shared model explains the remarkable similarities between “The Imperfect Enjoyment” by the Earl of Rochester and “The Disappointment” by Aphra Behn—remarkable only because readers are surprised to read one poem about male sexual impotence from the late seventeenth century, let alone two examples of this genre by well-known courtly writers. In fact, Richard Quaintance presents ten more examples by lesser-known poets as he defines the literary sub-genre of the neo-Classical “imperfect enjoyment poem,” written in imitation of Roman poems on the same subject, which is shared by Rochester and Behn (Quaintance 190). Since Rochester and Behn are working along such closely similar lines in terms of the artistic models that their own poems aim to imitate, it is therefore fair to ask the question: what are the main differences in their compositional technique within this tightly-defined literary sub-genre of the neo-Classical “imperfect enjoyment poem”? By examining features of each poem in turn—including form (including this sub-genre they share), but also narrative voice and tone—with some examination of the secondary critical literature on both Rochester and Behn, I hope to demonstrate that there are distinct differences in compositional technique which involve the difference in sex between these two writers. But my conclusion will attempt to problematize the very notion of an authorial sex difference by raising the concept of gender, and in particular the aspect of “performativity”—...


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...1600-1830: Stress Points in the English Augustan Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Print.

Staves, Susan. “Behn, Women, and Society.” The Cambridge Companion to Aphra Behn. Ed. Derek Hughes and Janet Todd. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 12-28. Print.
Thormählen, Marianne. Rochester: The Poems in Context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993. Print.
Wilcoxon, Reba. “Pornography, Obscenity, and Rochester’s ‘The Imperfect Enjoyment’.” Restoration and Eighteenth Century. Spec. issue of Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 15.3 (1975) : 375-90. JSTOR. Web. 10 Feb 2011.
Zeitz, Lisa M. and Thoms, Peter. “Power, Gender and Identity in Aphra Behn’s ‘The Disappointment’.” Restoration and Eighteenth Century. Spec. issue of Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 37.3 (1997) : 501-16. JSTOR. Web. 10 Feb 2011.

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