The Bourgeois Experience: Victoria to Freud - Vol. 1

By Peter Gay | Go to book overview

SIX

Fortifications for the Self

UNDENIABLY, the public domain exercised a momentous influence on the shaping of nineteenth-century middle-class sensuality. The wider world teemed with warnings and invitations, with fiascos that strengthened inhibitions and incitements that defeated them. Experience would revive sensual childhood memories to define adult erotic needs, opportunities, and frustrations. In his chronicle of a young man's formation, L'Education sentimentale—a title I have borrowed—Flaubert exposes his passive, rather unprincipled protagonist to a parade of instructors in life who are nearly all remote from his parental home: a disillusioning, if not uncharacteristic education of the senses. Society, then, provides extensive, incessantly renewed, often contradictory lessons for maturing egos and superegos; it feeds and thwarts, in a word it educates, the senses.

But since erotic passions and anxieties ripen within the sheltered, partly repressed sphere of personal life, I will now return to the individual after traversing those larger circuits. I will narrow my focus once again to explore the bourgeois' presumed addiction to hypocrisy—mendacious craven compliance with the dictates of despotic public opinion; his never- forgotten teacher, the family; and that silent and discreet solace of his inviolable inner life, the diary. This circular course—from Mabel Todd, as it were, to Mabel Todd—has particular pertinence for the historian of the nineteenth-century bourgeoisie. No other class at any other time was more strenuously, more anxiously devoted to the appearances, to the family and to privacy, no other class has ever built fortifications for the self quite so high.

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The Bourgeois Experience: Victoria to Freud - Vol. 1
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Books by Peter Gay *
  • The Bourgeois Experience - Victoria to Freud *
  • Contents *
  • Abbreviations *
  • General Introduction *
  • Orientations 3
  • One - The Strain of Definition 17
  • Two - Architects and Martyrs of Change 45
  • Education of the Senses *
  • Bourgeois Experiences, I - An Erotic Record 71
  • One - Sweet Bourgeois Communions 109
  • Two - Offensive Women and Defensive Men 169
  • Three - Pressures of Reality 226
  • Four - Learned Ignorance 278
  • Five - Carnal Knowledge 328
  • Six - Fortifications for the Self 403
  • Appendix 461
  • Bibliographical Essay 463
  • Illustrations and Sources 509
  • Acknowledgments 513
  • Index 517
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