Fashionable People, Fashionable Society: Fashion, Gender, and Print Culture in England 1821--1861

Fashionable People, Fashionable Society: Fashion, Gender, and Print Culture in England 1821--1861

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This dissertation examines fashionable society as a qnewq cultural realm in early nineteenth-century England---roughly from 1821 to 1861---in light of contemporary fashion, gender, historical and literary studies, as well as a variety of social theories ranging from Arendt to Bataille. Challenging the predominant view which confuses fashionable society with the aristocratic high society of the ancien regime, my thesis retrieves fashionable society as a discrete, dynamic, and cross-class entity. As a mobile institution, fashionable society was neither aristocratic nor bourgeois and yet integrated the values and interests of both in tandem with local circumstances. Compared with eighteenth-century polite society, fashionable society was characterized by a strengthened transnational nature; a stronger emphasis on the body; a special logic of space; and a versatile politics of vision, incivility and open exclusivity. With these characteristics, fashionable society functioned as an important means to the peaceful re-distribution of power and the re-structuring of early nineteenth-century English society. As a special crowd and a unique public that bore a symbiotic relationship with the bourgeois public---Habermasian and otherwise---fashionable society embodied and enacted a third sphere that both made possible and destabilized the public/private division. Emerging in a gendered process, fashionable society also sustained a flexible femininity and masculinity that developed in the space of possibility between binary distinctions such as the public man/private woman, the bourgeois and the aristocratic, the inner and the outer. A closer look at fashionable femininity and masculinity reveals the key role of fashion in the transformation of gender norms into gender realities and in facilitating the exchange among different capitals---gender, class, imperial power, colonial wealth, etc.---in tune with current exigencies. While fashionable society depended on the culture and technology of print for its sustenance, it also set in motion an entire problematic of fashion representation that bore directly on Victorian literary experiments and especially on the development of the domestic novel, such as illustrated by Charles Dickens's Bleak House.Like the Court author, Sir Egerton Brydges both associated and disassociated the modern Beau Monde (fashionable society) from aristocratic society: It affects to consist of persons of the highest rank, birth, and wealth, who therefore areanbsp;...

Title:Fashionable People, Fashionable Society: Fashion, Gender, and Print Culture in England 1821--1861
Publisher:ProQuest - 2008


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