Telling Sexual Stories: Power, Change, and Social Worlds

By Ken Plummer | Go to book overview

Notes

1 PROLOGUE: THE CULTURE OF SEXUAL STORY TELLING
1
Rousseau’s story is usually cited as one of the foundations of modern autobiography, though this has often been refuted by feminist scholarship. See Personal Narratives Group, Interpreting Women’s Lives (1989), p. 104.
2
For instance, see Walter: My Secret Life—The Unique Memoirs of England’s most Uninhibited Lover, edited by the Kronhausens (1967) and the critical discussion of it in Steven Marcus’s The Other Victorians (1966), Chs 3 and 4. It should not pass without remarking that some people regard the book as a fantasy fiction and not as a personal narrative. Until recently it is possible the book was more referred to than read, as was the fate of many other texts like Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis. For an overview of many of these nineteenth-century texts, see Jeffrey Weeks, Sex, Politics and Society (1989). Fascinating accounts of some late nineteenth-century narratives of sex include Elaine Showalter’s Sexual Anarchy (1991) and Judith Walkowitz’s City of Dreadful Delight (1992).
3
See Michal McCall, ‘The Significance of Story Telling’ (1990).
4
See Barbara Myerhoffs Number Our Days (1978). The concern with ‘stories’ seems prominent in a range of different intellectual disciplines which generally do not speak enough to each other. Common to all is the critique of the externalist, mechanistic, objectivist mode of thinking which has dominated the human sciences. A long list of examples of this ‘new turn’ could be given, but representatives of this shift in psychology include J. Burner’s Actual Minds, Possible Worlds (1986), R. Romanyshyn’s Psychological Life (1982), T. Sarbin’s Narrative Psychology (1986) and K. Gergen’s The Saturated Self (1991); in history, a key contribution comes from Hayden White—Metahistory (1973) and The Content of the Form (1987); in the developing ‘cognitive sciences’ see the work of G. Lakoff and M. Johnson in Metaphors We Live By (1980) and G. Lakoff in Women, Fire and Dangerous Things (1987); in philosophy, N. Goodman’s Ways ofWorldmaking (1978) and R. Rorty’s Contingency, Irony and Solidarity (1989) are important Cultural studies has been to the forefront of breaking down traditional disciplinary studies, although in the end much of it acts as a revamped literary theory. The fields of feminist theory, black theory, lesbian and gay studies and psychotherapy are also relevant.
5
Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures (1975), p. 448.
6
Barbara Hardy, Tellers and Listeners: The Narrative Imagination (1975), p. 4.
7
I use these diverse phrases but generally not the term ‘the postmodern’. Although I am referring to similar things as the postmodernists, it is an overused term that reeks of a certain intellectual style and fashion that I wish to avoid until its future is clearer. I am reluctant to plunge at this stage into the abyss of modern/postmodern arguments, important as they are, and will deal with some of these issues in Part III. For the time

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