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Rebecca Hayes - ePortfolio

About My Research

Department: English and Comparative Literature Studies

Supervisor: -

Year Started: 2003

‘She’s innocent and pleased’: The echoes of Early Modern Erotica in the Drama and Literature of the Restoration


A study of the erotic and pornographic literature widely circulated in the mid-seventeenth century, provides a useful insight into the cultural and literary background of Restoration drama and the early amatory novel. The exploration and, more importantly, acceptance, of latent sexuality, is a crucial element in the development of the Restoration stage and audience response.

Through an analysis of the pornographic texts available throughout this period, in conjunction with Restoration drama and the prose fictions of Aphra Behn and Eliza Haywood, I aim to demonstrate the influence of the genre on both the drama and early novels of post-Interregnum England. This thesis will analyse pornography as an under-examined but identifiable element in the development of popular drama and fiction in post-Restoration England. Comparing and contrasting the manner in which writers deliberately manipulate both the reader of erotica and the audience of drama, establishes the relationship between the text and its recipient. Due to the intensity of the subject matter, pornography and erotica reveal the reader-text-author relationship in an explicit manner. The analysis thereby establishes that the response of the reader of erotica and that of the spectator of an erotic scene in a play bear comparison, despite the obvious differences in genre. This thesis will argue that pornographic or erotic writing and the manner in which it connects with the recipient of the text enables a heightened sense of ‘readership’, of empathy and, by necessity, reader input. I propose that this heightened involvement can be traced as part of the shift towards the ‘modern reader’, one who is enlightened, conscious and urbane. In addition to this, the thesis will also seek to demonstrate that the representations of women and the expressions of their sexuality within pornographic and erotic texts express male anxiety as well as fantasy. The frequency of excuses for readership and publication emphasises not only the interest in reading about or viewing sexual fantasy, but also the fear of emancipated women in the ‘real world’. Through an analysis of these texts I will provide an insight into the popular culture and the inherent anxieties of the period