Marcus, Sharon 1966-
Marcus, Sharon 1966-
Apartment Stories: City and Home in Nineteenth-Century Paris and London, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1999.
Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2007.
Writer and educator Sharon Marcus attended Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where she earned her undergraduate degree in comparative literature. She went on to do her graduate studies at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, finishing with a doctoral degree. Over the course of her career, she has served on the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley, where she was an associate professor of English, and as a full professor of English and comparative literature as part of the faculty at Columbia University in New York City. Marcus's primary areas of research and academic interest include British and French novels of the nineteenth century, feminist and sexual theory, and the history of urban areas and architecture. In addition to her work as an educator, she has written two books, including Apartment Stories: City and Home in Nineteenth-Century Paris and London and Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England.
In Apartment Stories, Marcus addresses the differences between architecture in the cities of Paris and London, as well as looking at the different terminology used to refer to those different works of architecture, particularly dwellings. She then builds upon those differences by showing the ways in which writers of the nineteenth century twisted them to their own best use, creating characters that stood on the foundations of those different types of architecture and all of the personality stereotypes that they imply. She reveals the way that writers, in a sense, moved in the reverse of real life; where in reality architecture and housing choices spring from the needs and personalities of the people who require them, writers of nineteenth century novels set the scene of their story in Paris or London, chose the type of dwelling, and then used that as a sort of framework from which to build their characters. Examples of these types of stereotypical characters include the nosy, all-seeing female concierge in Paris, and the working-class, amoral characters in London.
She pays particular attention to Paris following the revolutions that took place in 1848, at which point the architecture of the city took a decided turn toward grander avenues and plans that were intended for traveling on foot and taking in the sights. In a review for History Today, contributor Peter Mandler remarked that "the author's mastery of the urban landscape as well as of the urban novel makes her knottiest arguments both beguiling and persuasive." Robert Lethbridge, in a review for the Journal of European Studies, called Marcus's effort "a brilliant book," and noted that "the range and integrity of the author's scholarship is testified to by formidable annotation which accommodates contributions to our understanding of the past extending from art history to sociology." Masha Belensky, writing for Nineteenth-Century French Studies, dubbed the book "a successful combination of cultural history with literary criticism." She went on to call Marcus "a lucid and thorough reader of both literary and non-literary texts, and … an excellent interpreter of visual images."
Between Women addresses the nature of relationships between women in Victorian society. Marcus suggests that many women of this period had intimate relationships with their female friends, that extended beyond the sympathetic and supportive nature normally suggested to be the cornerstones of their interactions, and included more sexual aspects, such as physical attraction and even actual sexual relations. But beyond that, she describes these women as sexual beings, whose nature was reflected in many ways during the Victorian period when chastity and modesty were outwardly revered in society. Behind closed doors, however, it was as sexual a period in time as any, and more so than many, with a steady business done at brothels and a strong pornography trade. Traditionally, these are considered the interests of men, but this book discusses what outlets were available to sensual women who still lived their lives according to society's rules of propriety. Marcus looks at various aspects of life, including friendships, marriage, and in particular analyzes works of literature of the time with an eye out for behavior that may be considered to have lesbian overtones. Regarding the novels of the time, she notes the number of female writers and the subjects of interest to female readers, regarding these works as expressions of female sexuality in many instances. She also looks at the clothing of the times, and includes an in-depth dissection of the differences and similarities between the clothing advertised for women in fashion magazines and those items worn in pornographic materials. In a review for the Lambda Book Report, Michael Bronski remarked that "Sharon Marcus's work is groundbreaking and intellectually enthralling, propelling us forward to new ways of thinking about both the past and the present." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly indicated that "much of Marcus's material will be new to the common reader, and she presents it in plain, engaging prose."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, July 1, 1999, G.W. McDonogh, review of Apartment Stories: City and Home in Nineteenth-Century Paris and London, p. 2009; September, 2007, S.A. Parker, review of Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England, p. 184.
Chronicle of Higher Education, June 22, 2007, "Beyond Wives and Lovers."
French Politics, Culture and Society, spring, 2001, Rosalind Williams, review of Apartment Stories.
French Studies, July, 2000, Nicholas White, review of Apartment Stories, p. 385.
History Today, September, 1999, Peter Mandler, review of Apartment Stories, p. 57.
Journal of European Studies, March, 2001, Robert Lethbridge, review of Apartment Stories, p. 126.
Journal of Gender Studies, November, 2007, Gail Turley Houstan, review of Between Women, p. 293.
Journal of Historical Geography, April, 2001, Felicity J. Callard, review of Apartment Stories, p. 288.
Journal of Urban History, January, 2001, Rosemary Wakeman, review of Apartment Stories, p. 202.
Lambda Book Report, fall, 2007, Michael Bronski, review of Between Women.
London Review of Books, May 24, 2007, "I Like You," p. 21.
MLN, December, 2000, Courtney Berger, review of Apartment Stories, p. 1141.
Modern Language Quarterly, September, 2002, "Cities of Words: Recent Studies on Urbanism and Literature," p. 365.
Modern Philology, May, 2002, Simon Joyce, review of Apartment Stories, p. 643.
Nineteenth-Century French Studies, March 22, 2000, Masha Belenky, review of Apartment Stories, p. 324.
Novel, fall, 1999, "Urban Interiors."
Publishers Weekly, November 6, 2006, review of Between Women, p. 46.
Reference & Research Book News, May, 2007, review of Between Women.
Times Higher Education Supplement, February 16, 2007, "They're Just Good Friends," p. 24.
Urban Studies, February, 2000, Geraldine Pratt, review of Apartment Stories, p. 421.
Columbia University Department of English Web site,http://www.columbia.edu/cu/english/ (February 15, 2008), faculty profile.