From Substance to Subject: Studies in Hegel by Nathan Rotenstreich

By Nathan Rotenstreich

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Extra resources for From Substance to Subject: Studies in Hegel

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His role was only defined and limited by the limits of humanity itself – at least if he were a white middle-class Anglo-Saxon. Entering the gender debate The ideas of the evolutionists were readily absorbed into the popular debate about ‘the Woman Question’. But this debate was not, in reality, so much about determining the nature of femininity as about what Glover What is a Woman? Victorian Constructions of Femininity 31 and Kaplan call ‘femininity’s function as the mainstay of nation and state through the affective relations of the family’.

The work of Charles Darwin, in particular, reinforced the view that the differences between men and women extended beyond the reproductive system to secondary sexual characteristics. All such differences, according to Darwin, could be explained by the process of evolution. The Origin of Species (1859), primarily a biological work, argued that evolution occurred because those individuals of a species whose characteristics best fitted them for survival were the ones who contributed most offspring to the next generation, to whom the parents passed on those characteristics.

Within this perspective the Victorian woman’s domestic role and submission to man is not necessary simply for the preservation of the family, or even society, but of the race. Woman’s reproductive organs defined her role in terms of irresistible racial needs. Poovey points out that, even before Darwin, the uterus was seen as the most important organ not only in the female body, but of the ‘Race’. She quotes from W. Tyler Smith’s lecture series on obstetrics (1847–8): ‘the uterus is to the Race what the heart is to the Individual: it is the organ of circulation to the species’ (p.

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