Romanticism, Aristocracy, and Reproduction
Aristocratic sexuality was a matter of competing political representations under the Restoration. While the heroes of early Romantic literature—whose authors were typically monarchists—are often sexually abstinent and thus the last of a doomed aristocratic line, these representations echoed a common anti-monarchist critique of the Restoration: the view that it was retrograde and without future. Liberal satirists adopted the sterile aristocrat as a symbol of this morbidity, yet this association did not go unchallenged. The birth in 1820 of the duc de Bordeaux, the first Bourbon heir in thirty years, spurred a surge of monarchist poetry trumpeting values the liberal opposition claimed as its own: hope, the future, and a model of aristocratic sexuality privileging virtuous fatherhood over virile libertinage. This was a formative moment in the history of what Lee Edelman calls ‘reproductive futurism’, whose earliest forms targeted class identities as much as sexual ones.
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