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Friday, June 29, 2012

Women, Popular Culture, and the Eighteenth Century

Lavinia Fenton

Women, Popular Culture, and the Eighteenth Century is a varied academic collection of essays about how popular culture influenced women and how women changed popular culture in the eighteenth century.  I found some of the essays enjoyable and extremely interesting but others were difficult to read.

Women apparently did a lot in the eighteenth century.  There were actresses, singers, fashion leaders, and women with their own businesses.  Many of the women who influenced popular culture were aristocratic, for example, Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, but some were not.

I especially liked the essay about the actresses in the ballad operas.  These included Lavinia Fenton and Kitty Clive.  They had to perform in operas written by authors with misogynist views of women, but they managed to make the parts their own and become admired in their own right.  Lavinia Fenton even married into the aristocracy.  Actresses were almost regarded as being on a par with prostitutes early in the eighteenth century.These women and others helped to make acting a respected profession for women.

I also enjoyed the essays about fashion and the ways in which women wore political colours.  These were not only high-class women. Even some rebellious women, such as the Jacobites and the Irish, wore colours which stood for their political beliefs.  Some even wore them on their garters and threatened to show them to policemen if they got into trouble!

There are several essays about Jane Austen.  I found this a bit surprising because she is usually regarded as a Regency writer.  Some of the other essays also jumped into the nineteenth century which was a bit disconcerting.

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