Annotated Bibliography: from early modern to Saartjie Baartman

By: LeiLani Dowell

I am working on a paper that explores the trajectory of the anatomization, racialization and mystification of female bodies during the early modern period to the sensational display and reception of Saartjie Baartman, a Khoikhoi woman who was exhibited as the “Hottentot Venus” throughout 19th-century Europe.

Allen, Regulus. “‘The Sable Venus’ and Desire for the Undesirable.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 51.3 (2011): 667-685. Print.

Allen, an assistant professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, analyses the poem “The Sable Venus: An Ode” and the illustration that accompanied it, arguing that both pieces reveal anxieties about white male desire for black women in the early modern period. The author discusses the creation of the “Black Venus,” meant to highlight the supposed superior beauty of white women while simultaneously eroticizing and commodifying the black female body.

Burton, Jonathan. “Western Encounters with Sex and Bodies in Non-European Cultures, 1550-1750.” Routledge History of Sex and the Body: 1500 to the Present. Ed. Sara Toulalan and Kate Fisher, 2013. 495-510. Print.

Burton examines the ways in which the formation of sexuality in early modern England was a cross-cultural affair, informed by colonial expeditions to non-European countries. In doing so, Burton challenges the standard notion of “backwards” sexuality in non-European countries and bodies.

Grogan, Claire. “Identifying Foreign Bodies: New Philosophers and Hottentots in Elizabeth Hamilton’s Memoirs of Modern Philosophers.” Eighteenth Century Fiction 188.3 (2006): 305–327. Print.

Grogan, author of “Politics and Genre in the Works of Elizabeth Hamilton, 1756–1816,” discusses Hamilton’s alignment of “dangerous revolutionary ideas and personages” with the Hottentots of Africa in an attempt to promote nationalist and patriotic sentiment in England.

Hall, Kim F. Things of Darkness: Economies of Race and Gender in Early Modern England. 1 edition. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995. Print.

Hall, an assistant professor of English at Georgetown University, explores the connections between race and gender in early modern English literature and how the depictions of the two were used to form a prototypical white male identity. Hall particularly examines the nation-building impulses of imperialism, slavery and sexual politics as driving forces in identity formation in England.

Hendricks, Margo, and Patricia Parker, eds. Women, Race, and Writing in the Early Modern Period. 1st edition. London ; New York: Routledge, 1993. Print.

This anthology includes a number of essays specifically focusing on the reception and deployment of black female bodies in the early modern period, including “The Getting of a Lawful Race: Racial discourse in early modern England and the unrepresentable black woman” by Lynda E. Boose, and “I Rather Would Wish to be a Black Moor: Beauty, race, and rank in Lady Mary Wroth’s Urania”.

Hudson, Nicholas. “The ‘Hottentot Venus,’ Sexuality, and the Changing Aesthetics of Race, 1650-1850.” Mosaic (Winnipeg) 41.1 (2008): 19. Print.

Hudson, the author of several works on early modern England, explores the use of the “Venus” trope in the emergence of “race” and “aesthetics” as sciences during the period. Hearkening back to the Roman goddess, the concept of Venus is used to paradoxically highlight the “perfect” beauty of white female bodies while simultaneously sounding a warning about the desirability of black female bodies.

Lloyd, Sheila. “Sara Baartman and the ‘Inclusive Exclusions’ of Neoliberalism.” Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism 11.2 (2013): 212–237. Print.

By analyzing current feminist texts on the Hottentot Venus, Lloyd makes the argument that Baartman’s story resonates with current audiences because of the parallels modern-day globalization and the commodification of women’s racialized bodies and the imperialist impulses that created a space for Baartman to become a continental sensation in the 19th century.

MacDonald, Joyce Green. Women and Race in Early Modern Texts. Cambridge University Press, 2002. Print.

MacDonald, an associate professor of English at the University of Kentucky, discusses the implementation of race, gender and identity in early modern texts, specifically focusing on how women’s bodies were used in discourses of race and colonialism. For MacDonald, this often occurs via the erasure and displacement of black women’s bodies in the texts.

Miranda, Carlos A., and Suzette A. Spencer. “Omnipresent Negation: Hottentot Venus and Africa Rising.” Callaloo 32.3 (2009): 910–933. Project MUSE. Web. 2 Nov. 2014.

The authors examine the history and scholarly inquiries into the Hottentot Venus up to the current period. While the article focuses mainly on the omnipresent nature of the Hottentot Venus in today’s world – reproduced through hyper-attention to black women’s anatomy – the in-depth historical background of Baartman’s experience is helpful to an understanding of the deployment of anatomization and sensationalization in the early modern period.

Tuhkanen, Mikko. “Breeding (and) Reading: Lesbian Knowledge, Eugenic Discipline, and The Children’s Hour.” MFS Modern Fiction Studies 48.4 (2002): 1001–1040. Project MUSE. Web. 2 Nov. 2014.

Tuhkanen examines Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour as a 20th-century text that highlights the “interimplication of racial and sexual categories and suggests the uncontainability of both by movements of social hygiene.” In doing so, she discusses early modern anatomization texts that cite the genitalia of “lesbians” and black women as abnormal.