Jovial Bigotry

Jovial Bigotry

Jana Verhoeven
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  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 220
  • Publication date: 2012
  • Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
  • Weight: 0.45 kg ISBN: 9781443837583 Note that the actual book cover may differ from the picture

This book revisits the debate over manners and morals that raged in France, Britain and the United States in the late nineteenth century. It was in essence a debate about gender and sexuality, and one of the foremost figures in the transnational discussions was the French writer and lecturer Paul Blouet, alias Max O'Rell (1847-1903).

Although largely forgotten today, O'Rell deserves remembrance as a major phenomenon of the fin-de-siecle publishing and entertainment world. A Frenchman living in England but catering primarily to the American market, he disseminated national and gender stereotypes in an unprecedented way. Admired for the wit deployed in his lectures and his many best-selling books, he is a colourful exemplar of the many bourgeois commentators, male and female; most of them with mainstream political, social and cultural views, who engaged in these discussions, producing dense webs of assertion and opinion across countries and even continents.

Max O'Rell and his fellow observers commented on women's position in family and society, their partnership in the couple, their education, their sexual fulfilment, their right to paid work, aspects of social etiquette, feminism, domestic abuse, adultery and prostitution.

There were frequent disagreements and sometimes hostile exchanges, but this analysis of the debate reveals a fundamentally common outlook among its participants: an agreement on patriarchy as the foundation of bourgeois society, and on the necessity to confine women in carefully stereotyped roles.