Saturday, July 30, 2005


Coffee Achievers

This week's TLS delves into E.J. Clery's study The Feminization Debate in Eighteenth Century England" Literature, Commerce and Luxury. Among other things, Clery looks at how early coffeehouses were a convenient target in debates over political activism and gender:

Coffee... was once deemed an unconscionable luxury and a vice; the government had tried to ban it in 1675, but failed in the face of popular addiction/ opposition. With coffee shops came the age of the “coffee-house politician”, often caricatured as unmanly, an effete gossip, a meddlesome debater, and a suspiciously soft figure in general. In other words, he was civilized, and stood outside “existing masculine roles”. The pamphlet Coffee Houses Vindicated (also 1675) reveals how the “well-regulated” coffee house is “the sanctuary of health, the nursery of temperance, the delight of frugality, and academy of civility, the free-school of ingenuity”. It was just the place for a “renegotiation of gender roles"...

Of course, nobody now would do something as silly as employing jingoism and implications of effeteness on the basis of what kind of coffee drinks one consumes.... right?

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