John Wilkes’s “Closet”: Hetero Privacy and the Annotation of Desire in An Essay on Woman
This chapter tells a different story about sexuality in Stedman's Narrative. John Gabriel Stedman pauses in the midst of his extensive Narrative of a Five Years Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam to paint a written portrait of Paramaribo, the capital of the Dutch colony of Surinam. Recent scholarship has passed over the heteronormativity of Stedman's Narrative in silence. This is true even of the criticism devoted to analyzing Stedman's depiction of his relationship with the 'mulatta' woman Joanna what is variously referred to as the Narrative's 'transracial love plot', 'transracial romance', or 'interracial marriage'. Contemporary criticism mirrors the heteronormativity of Stedman's text; both the Narrative and its critical commentary presuming that opposite-sex attraction need not be designated or remarked upon as such. The critical consensus attributing love and romance to the opposite-sex couples alone risks perpetuating the heteronormativity of Defoe's and especially Stedman's eighteenth-century readership and reinstantiating that historical period's marginalization of non-heteroerotic desire.