Anthony J. La Vopa

The Labor of the Mind

Intellect and Gender in Enlightenment Cultures

University of Pennsylvania Press 2017

New Books in European StudiesNew Books in Gender StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network December 19, 2017 Lilian Calles Barger

Anthony J. La Vopa is professor emeritus of history at North Carolina State University. His book, The Labor of the Mind: Intellect and Gender...

Anthony J. La Vopa is professor emeritus of history at North Carolina State University. His book, The Labor of the Mind: Intellect and Gender in Enlightenment Cultures (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017), is an erudite intellectual history that explores how cultivated men and women in early modern France and Britain thought about the intellectual capacities of each sex. The manly and feminine attributes of the mind were tied to bodily and social concepts of female weakness and sentiment and male strength and reason. Beginning with the seventeenth-century salon culture of Paris, in which women were dominant and within an expanding commercial print culture, women and men conceptualized the gendered notions of what was required for polite conversation and intellectual agility. The exertion of labor was set against the desirability of the creativity and ease of play. La Vopa examines the works of multiple prominent thinkers and the positive recasting of the labor of the mind and who was qualified to engage in it. The author also shows how those engaged in debate attempted to live out their ideal for intellectual life. In course of a century and half, ideas about the nature of intellectual labor and the limits of the gendered mind formed the foundations of modernity.

This episode of New Books in Intellectual History was produced in cooperation with the Society for U.S. Intellectual History.


Lilian Calles Barger, www.lilianbarger.com, is a cultural, intellectual and gender historian. Her current book project is entitled The World Come of Age: An Intellectual History of Liberation Theology, forthcoming in 2018 from Oxford University Press.

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