Sunday, October 28, 2007

Notes WCBS presentation

Mr. and Mrs. Bull: the Performance of Gender in British Eighteenth Century cartoons

We know the prints are there – they are oh so useful for illustration purposes, and to show undergraduates that our time period is interesting and perhaps even risqué … (the windy maids)
Art historians have written some about them, together with paintings, showing how they fit into the shift from history painting to lower subjects, representing broader segments of the population, but with no real focus on the historical information available. Historians use the pictures to, but mostly just to illustrate a particular point, reading them as transparent historical artifacts. I am not sure that is a good idea. Just the other week someone was making a statement about needlewomen being prostitutes and that was a well-known fact in the 19th century (coz there was this novelist who made some aside about it). Someone else pointed out that it was a common belief, or gossip, that needlewomen were prostitutes – the facts we have available do not necessarily support the claim. So, what I propose to tell you about today is not what people actually did, but rather what kind of conceptual – visual – language they were using to gossip with, what recognizable stereotypes might have been at the time. I believe understanding these frameworks will help me use images better in the bigger project I am working on.

I started looking at this to find out how one particular woman in the public arena was seen, and found that in addition to the written diary notes, discussion in letters and reviews or gossip in various journals there were also satirical prints of this woman – and the prints were used as if transparent, as if the portrayal of this one woman in the prints could tell us how she was seen without any further references. I decided that I needed to know more, that I needed to understand the language used in these prints, what the subtexts were, and this paper is the result of my explorations so far.

A little background;
From the Italian caricaturas – Leonardo’s grotesqueries – Dutch prints –
Some of the people:
William Hogarth (1697 - 1746) (Yale Lewis Walpole)
James Gillray (1756-1815) (Bucknell U, Brown U – also books)
Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) (Boston Public L, Huntington)
Henry William Bunbury (1750-1811)
Hubert-François, Gravelot (1699-1773) mostly book work – France-England-France
the outside as a reflection of moral standing (crooked nose meant something about your soul) - not accepted as art but as amusement, acceptable because it was a corrective of folly, and as time wore on, as elegant wit and a particular British genre
Rarely censored, partly people bought up the edition if they disliked it, partly it was considered silly to respond – you should grin and bear it as an innocent joke.
Initially separate images sold in stores in different parts of town (on the gender issue – several female print publishers (Mrs. Humphrey (Gillray’s publisher), Mary Daly, etc). People bought prints – individually or by subscription, rented print collections over the weekend, went to the publisher’s gallery or looked for free in the window.
Audience? Often seriously allegorical so only literate folks could follow all the details, but there were broader strokes for lower class folks.

What I have looked for is:
How and where are men and women portrayed in the prints? What sort of women and men are they, are there images with both genders, or mostly separate?
What kinds of environments are people shown in – private, public, political?

Images that are ABOUT gender, gender roles and gender relations?
What do they say (what describes good gender, bad gender, confusion)?
Images that USE gender to describe something else – what McKeon describes as concentration narratives.
How is gender used here (look at the peace image – where napoleon is an effeminate man and George a woman coz they are doing the suitor thing)

Named individuals versus types?

Although cartoons are commonly used as illustrations of the political debate in British eighteenth-century studies, and the satirical depictions of women in those cartoons are regularly used as examples of assumed negative attitudes toward women, surprisingly little work has been done on how gender is actually presented and performed in the images.

There are rich sources to draw from, thousands of cartoons that depict men and women representing actual people as well as muses, virtues, and nations. In some the gender is not a matter of choice, only the way that gender is portrayed is negotiable, in other cartoons the gender is part of the message and gendered characteristics are used to define the people or situations portrayed.

In this paper I explore what kinds of meanings were assigned to gender characteristics. By looking at the words and visual gestures used to portray gender, I delineate the specifics of how gender expectations are revealed and negotiated in the images and accompanying texts. I also use the cartoons to investigate how transgressions of expected gendered behavior are portrayed, what meanings are assigned to such transgressions, and what the implied consequences, if any, are.
Finally, I look at how gender characteristics and expectations are used symbolically to represent other ideological contests, where gendered attributes are descriptive tools, not messages in themselves.

My paper is part of a larger study of how female non-fiction writers in the eighteenth century represented themselves as authoritative voices in the public sphere. I am particularly concerned with how female authors negotiated the matter of their gender in their construction and presentation of self and how their audience, their readers, responded to these constructions. Women who ventured into the public sphere at this time had to structure their public persona within the available discourse on gender, and women like the historian Catharine Macaulay were frequently seen referred to or directly satirized in cartoons. Mapping out the visual rhetorical landscape will demonstrate some of the possible strategies available in the construction and negotiation of a female public voice as well as tell us something of the disconnect between gendered characteristics as conceptual tools and gender as reified categories of understanding.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

McKeon on Wahrman and King

Review article titled "Recent Studies in the Restoration and Eighteenth Century"
From SEL 45, 3 Summer 2005, 707-782.

After general comments and talk about Ruth Perry's book on changing notions of kinship we move to The Making of the Modern Self: Identity and Culture in Eighteenth-Century England, by Dror Wahrman.

The thesis of this text is said to be: that between the first three-quarters and the last quarter of the eighteenth century can be seen a sudden, rapid, indeed a radical discontinuity in English culture.
Wahrman’s principal interest is in “the making of the modern self,” by which he means “a very particular understanding of personal identity, one that presupposes an essential core of selfhood
characterized by psychological depth, or interiority, which is the bedrock of unique, expressive individual identity” (p. xi). In summary form, the basic difference marked by this rupture is that
between ca. 1700 and ca. 1780 English people indulged a sense of self that was fluid and unstable: intermittent, unlocalizable, and unintegrated by virtue of being unanchored in the stability of an individual and essential interiority; and that all this changed around 1780 as a consequence of the English experience of the American Revolution. Before 1700, as well, there was a different sense of self than that which flourished for most of the eighteenth century—although Wahrman says little about what this was like, and when he does it sounds very much like his eighteenth-century paradigm (e.g., p. 335n72). This change in the sense of self
Wahrman takes to be symptomatic of an even broader cultural revolution, in effect the making of modernity as such.

"he undertakes to outline how the radical discontinuity that is his subject can be observed in the way the categories of race, gender, and class change over the course of the eighteenth century."
For the gender part he starts from Laqueur's Making Sex, which claims that the old view was of
a less tight connection between biological sex and gender where " biological sex is known
to be implicated within, but not determinant of, the more general category of (what we would call) gendered social behavior, which also implies social rank, legal standing, and other aspects of
identity. In the latter conception, biological sex is separated out from this gender substratum and constituted as the natural and essential determinant of personal identity. “Sex” thereby provides the antithetical term against which the explicit idea of “gender” also is constituted.
So gender here comes out of sex, and sex is naturalized and essentialized.

After a long discussion of how Wahrman misunderstands Laqueur and unnecessarily shreds notions of interiority as nonauthentic or lacking in some vital aspect, McKeon moves on to discuss The Gendering of Men, 1600–1750: The English Phallus, by Thomas A. King.

King grounds his analysis in (among other things) the thesis of an early modern shift to a biologically grounded conception of gender difference. But he combines this insight with another thesis, indebted to the work not of Laqueur but of Alan Bray and Randolph Trumbach, that
this period also witnessed the emergence of modern notions of sexuality. The result is the doubly dialectical coalescence of, on the one hand, the modern norm of gender difference and the
orthodoxy of different-sex relations and, on the other hand, the modern deviation of same-sex relations, the negative criterion of sameness by which the norm of gender difference was sustained. The suspicion that modern concepts not only of gender difference but also of sexuality were in formation at this time was spurred by the observation that, around the turn of the seventeenth century, sodomitical behavior was acquiring a new subcultural visibility,
a notoriety as not just something that all men might do on occasion but as a mode of being in which some men might subsist as though by a perverse but natural dispensation. King breaks
new ground, I believe, by insisting that we attend not simply to sodomy but also to pederasty, the specifi c form of same-sex relations that is dominant before the eighteenth century and that has a determinate sociopolitical meaning in that historical context.
Pederasty names the species of same-sex behavior that requires between its participants a marked difference in generation, power, and status and that works, like the patron-client relationship, to cement hierarchical super- and subordination through the performance of one man’s (the prepubescent youth, but also the servant or the slave) dependence on another. From a modern perspective this is defi nitively a “sexual” behavior. Within early modern culture, however, pederasty was experienced as a political relationship of subjection that had for the submissive partner the positive status of a proximity to power that in turn bespoke power. “Courtiers, male and female, fl aunted their subordination as the mark of their favor. They displayed, proudly, their proximity to sovereign spectacle as the sign of their preferment” (p. 5).
Like other rituals of subjection to the public body of monarchy, pederasty was a highly theatrical performance of abjection and self-display on the public stage of the Stuart Court. In King’s argument, when we conceive pederasty in these terms we begin to understand the ideological meaning not only of pederasty in its eighteenth-century decline but also of gender and sexuality in their contemporaneous rise. The antithetical relationship between same-sex and different-sex behavior that is thrown into relief at this historical juncture bespeaks not a transhistorical “homophobia,” nor even simply the abstract logic of structural symmetry, but a political rebellion against the old order of hierarchical subjection. In the context of the far-flung
political, social, and cultural confl icts that marked the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the critique of sodomy that is more precisely a critique of pederasty becomes intelligible as a repudiation of royal and aristocratic absolutism akin to more ostensible
critiques such as the abolition of the House of Lords, the episcopal hierarchy, Star Chamber, feudal tenures, and the like.
Over the long term, what replaced these institutions was the concept of a “civil society” that was separated out from (and thereby also constituted by) the public authority of the state and that ensured the freedom of private institutions—religious observance, economic exchange, the public sphere—from political subjection to the state. In an analogous fashion, different-sex behavior came to stand for a new order of “gender complementariness” (pp. 96, 128): not the forced penetration of pederasty acted out on the public stage but the voluntary social-as-conjugal contract; not the superficial and one-way gaze of spectacular publicity but the asymmetrical reciprocity of looks that constitutes the deep interiority of autonomous subjectivity and privacy."

SO I wonder, is all of this a matter of trying to control where things go when you take away the vertical order ... you HAVE to pretend there is some other structure that works and is natural. And back to the public-private again, some different public/private:

state civil society
civil society domestic
society family
guests/servants couple

They are like concentric circles with public always being the side with more people - more strangers - involved.

Back to McKeon on King:

Once we see pederasty as one among many analogous practices of the old regime, it becomes fruitful to entertain an analogy between the constitutive separation out of civil society from the state and that of “sexuality” from the traditional, all-inclusive category of political practice. As social contract theory posited the state of nature and the natural, rights-bearing individual as chronologically prior to and determinant of society and the political state, so contemporary “gender difference theory” separated out the gendered body as existentially and naturally—that is, anatomically and biologically—prior to whatever contrary political and social practices (like pederasty) might afterward be imposed upon it: “This separating out of practices from ‘the body itself’ would naturalize the self within a body increasingly assumed to possess its distinctive properties, including its gender, prior to and free of any external manipulation” (p. 62). So in my view, King’s thesis offers a more persuasive view than Wahrman’s of “the making of the modern self.” Henceforth the naturalness of possessing inborn rights and sex will come to be seen as the primary determinant of personal identity, and this movement toward the interior—away from impositions “from without” and toward an indwelling authenticity— will facilitate a reconception of “the self” as defined not by one’s place in the sociopolitical hierarchy of subjection but by one’s singular subjectivity. By the same token, this idea of the self, fully separated out from all circumstantial contingencies, will provide the basis for generalization about what is universally characteristic of humanity. “Remembering” pederasty, King argues, is crucial because it is the missing term in the prehistory of modern masculinity, the sociopolitical practice whose theatrical display of dependence was inconsistent with the conception of an autonomous privacy that might be universalized as a natural condition of independence. To remember pederasty therefore is among other things to challenge this naturalizing conception, to imply that like pederasty, gender difference has a “political” contingency: “[E]arly modern opposition to aristocratic publicity has been naturalized and mystified as subjective desire . . . The privatized, social, subjective body depended upon the negation of the passionate, ‘natural,’ subjected body” (pp. 128, 149). So when King speaks of “residual pederasty” in the eighteenth century he refers to the self-conscious reproduction of pederastic modes of superficial publicity and self-display that defiantly theatricalized the aura of being subjected to another, a politics of “counterresistance” to the new order of privacy and deep subjectivity that was itself resistant to the old order of subjection.

And then, then we get to the real meat of this ... so far. Katharine Gillespie’s inquiry in Domesticity and Dissent in the Seventeenth Century: English Women’s Writing
and the Public Sphere
"Gillespie argues that mid-seventeenth-century English women made use of the category of
the autonomous subject, the individual abstractly disembodied and disembedded from contextual socialization. On this basis they wrote in favor of a political contractualism that both ceded individual rights to the state and guaranteed the right to dissent from and to replace the magistrate:; they conceived themselves to be possessive individualists who had the right to own property in the wages they earned for their labor of preaching and prophesying; and they believed in the separation of the realms of the private and the public—the separation of church and state, the separation of home and state—as the institutional foundation of the free and sovereign self. As Gillespie shows at some length, these are liberal values that postmodern feminism has tended to see as masculinist ideology" .............." Gillespie counters that, often in explicit defense of women’s rights, “sectarian women writers actually forged the model of the subject that feminists actively seek to displace—that of the ‘sovereign’ or ‘abstract’ individual. Identifying them as early articulators rather than victims of this principle should challenge
us to reconsider its status as a masculine construct invented solely to further rather than ameliorate patriarchal domination” (pp. 170–1).

Friday, October 26, 2007

Concept v category

Read someone's blog on history - the writer was curious as to the difference between concept and category (because she wanted to study gender as a concept and could only find it written about as a category). So I looked up

1. A general idea derived or inferred from specific instances or occurrences

and category

1. A specifically defined division in a system of classification; a class.
2. A general class of ideas, terms, or things that mark divisions or coordinations within a conceptual scheme, especially:
Aristotle's modes of objective being, such as quality, quantity, or relation, that are inherent
in everything.

So I decided that category is the better word to use because it speaks of ideas in terms of being parts of a bigger context. Since I don't believe hardly anything can be studied by itself, but always needs to be considered in terms of what it is bounded by, and since any study of a concept would be (or at least should be) interested in the boundaries of the idea in question, it seems that category is a more useful term.

On French feminism and cultural diversity

Essentially, American-made "French Feminism" celebrates women's innate difference from men: neither combating nor submitting to the patriarchy, women are called to affirm their much-neglected values. The three canonical "French Feminists" (Hélène Cixous, Julia Kristeva and Luce Irigaray) would not disagree with this idea, although it is not the center of their work. In France, these women are not grouped together as feminists, a term they don't even use themselves. Kristeva is a respected philosopher and Cixous an innovative novelist. Their writings can be applied to but not reduced to politics or revolutionary feminine visions.
Historically, France owes its existence to uniting diverse peoples under a common language and strong central government. In a nation structured on ideals of unity and equality, feminism connotes divisiveness. This is the opposite of the United States, founded on the ideal of independent states united only for defense and economic transactions. Whereas Americans glorify liberty and diversity, the French appreciate common ground (the State and its values) and interdependence (a socialist-type system). Feminism, which places gender and not nationality as the uniting force, subverts even progressive French thought, whereas it fits somewhat better with American values. Paradoxically, certain French policies imply that because equality has been legally achieved, professional inequalities exist simply because women have other priorities and interests. Thus the outward ideal of equality surreptitiously translates into "separate but equal," each sex maintaining its role for the sake of national cohesion.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

McKeon's comments at the Long Eighteenth Blog

From the blog "The Long Eighteenth"

I agree entirely that "interpretation" and "explanation" form a dialectical doublet, in their interrelation defining what historical method should aim to achieve. I emphasize the former only because I feel as though "our" attentiveness to the self-conceptions of the past in recent years has been overbalanced by methods and perspectives that derive from modern experience. By this I meant something very imprecise, and the term "presentist" is probably misleading except in so far as it, too, means simply "what postdates the portion of the past that's under study." I think "explanation" is crucial to historical study, but perhaps only once (a schematic temporalization) "interpretation" has defined a sense of the past's self-understanding on the basis of which the claim to "explain" by *other* means can become intelligible.So in these terms, the presentism I sought to rebalance in Secret History is the tendency to read the period in which modernity first seems to emerge (which I take at least to include the 18th century) from the viewpoint of the failures of modernity, paradigmatically, capitalism, the bourgeoisie, class conflict, liberalism, the public sphere, separate spheres, "The Enlightenment." To study these things from the viewpoint of "the past" is, as I've already quoted, "to view the past not only as the prelude to our present but also as a response to its own past" (xxvii), a formulation that suggests that the distinction between interp. and explan. can also name the difference between attending to the intentional *motives* with which past activities, etc. were undertaken and elaborating a theoretical or *causal* understanding whose possibility depends on taking a certain distance from the aims of the past culture in question. In 1690 capitalism meant not commodity fetishism, alienated labor, and the extraction of surplus labor but freedom from hierarchical political and economic control. The bourgeoisie was not a self-conscious class whose ideology sought to universalize its own interests. Indeed, whether it even existed is a definitional rather than an empirical question--hence my objection (74) to the translation of Habermas's burgerlich as bourgeois rather than civil. What people *experienced* in 1690 was not class conflict but a conflict between status-based assumptions about the coextension of birth and worth and emergent class-based assumptions that worth was a function of labor discipline within one's calling, or simply one's industrious accomplishments and the upward mobility that attended them.Except for a few thoughtful "Tory feminists," "liberalism" wasn't an ideology of human rights and negative freedom that nonetheless silently drew the line at women and indigent men but a revolutionary alternative to the tacit belief in monarchal legitimacy. Similarly, the public sphere wasn't a hypocritical claim to inclusiveness and equality but a revolutionary intuition that the determination of public affairs should be the work of others besides the king and his ministers. Separate spheres was not simply the modern, more ruthlessly efficient instantiation of patriarchal inequality but one result of reconceiving gender relations no longer as a matter of better vs. worse but instead as a matter of equality in difference. And the Enlightenment was not the dogmatic adherence to rational and instrumental "objectivity" but a dialectical effort to make sense of the difference between the object and the subject, science and the humanities that had been bequeathed by the quarrel of the ancients and the moderns. This is not to fashion an apology for modernity but to fill in its other side (as it seems these days necessary to do) so as to come closer to an understanding of the past as, like the present, historical process.This sort of presentism can't be laid at the door of any single recent critical movement: the post-structuralist demystification of "history," utopian Marxist contempt for the achievements of modernization, new historicist efforts to "do" history outside the protocols of empiricism--i.e., without abandoning the poststructuralist belief that "history" is epistemologically inaccessible--all these have contributed to the haze of "negative hermeneutics" (Ricoeur) of our times. To recur to one of your points, Dave, although I see what you mean about the comparable vulnerability of "presentism" and "historicism" to partiality, I'd rather reorient these terms, partly on the precedent of previous usage. I take presentism itself to be a mode of "historicism" in the now very general sense of historicism as entailing any commitment to historical understanding. But as I see it, "historicism" came into usage to name what I've been calling "interpretation," the aim to study the past in its own terms, as opposed to the aim to elaborate general laws of historical formation and development that can "explain" history in a more trans-historical fashion, i.e., the attempt to apply the model of scientific "natural laws" to sociohistorical experience.(I associate this meaning of historicism with, e.g., Troeltsch and Dilthey; but ironically Popper and others later adopted the term to describe and discredit what I'm calling "explanation".)And I agree that to conceive interpretation as the study of the past in its own terms begs the question of what, or even more *whose*, past we're talking about. Thinking of inter./explan. as methodologically a dialectical doublet, however, suggests that this is the necessary next step in interpretation: dividing interpretation--a whole vis a vis its opposition to explanation--into its own parts once that preceding division has been accomplished. This can be both diachronic and synchronic: the former in so far as "the past" we seek to understand is a chronology that needs diachronic subdivision if we're to sort out different viewpoints and perspectives; certainly the latter once we recognize that any diachronic period is defined apart from others according to a synchronic perception of what makes it, as a unit, different from surrounding periods. I.e., synchronic study isn't the opposite of diachronic study, it presupposes it as the means by which any slice of diachrony becomes susceptible, by bracketing adjacent chronologies, to synchronic understanding. In this respect I don't think cultural studies devotes itself to synchronic rather than diachronic study; it brackets the problem of diachrony--and thereby takes a position on diachrony--by conceiving a period (or a decade or a day) as susceptible to its "own" analysis. And I think we owe synchronic study not to any recent thinking but to the Scottish Enlightenment historians and then, soon after, to the full elaboration of Marx, for whom the synchronic relationship between infrastructure and superstructure became as indispensable to "historical" study as is the relationship between one event or period and others. (The attribution of the discovery of synchrony to cultural studies might even be seen as an example of "presentism," like the case of looking to Said [as Dave points out]for the origins of what Selden already practiced.) And I think that when people castigate "master narratives" they're not thinking of diachronic totalizations alone. The strong meaning of "teleology" as positing "at the outset a result purported to emerge only as the result of inquiry" (xxv) doesn't require a linear narrative in which to operate. After all, Marx's synchronic relation of ideology/material base has been accused (although I think wrongly)of teleology, as well as of "abstraction" and "reduction." On the other hand, the ambition to hunt out teleology has led some to conflate teleology with linear succession or temporality, which seems to me a mistake. (If this were true, then chronological readings would be ipso facto "evolutionary" readings, whereas in fact they also can be, and can be criticized as, "devolutionary.")For a discussion of interp./explan. that very interestingly argues the subtlety with which that distinction can be made when applied to micro-questions of whether individual actions are the result of "internal" motive or "external" cause see Alasdair MacIntyre, "The Idea of a Social Science," in Against the Self-Images of the Age (Notre Dame, 1984), 211-29.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Internet resources - journals

Internet library of Early Journals
Annual Register, Blackwoods Edinburgh Magazine, Gentleman's Magazine, Notes and Queries, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, The Builder

Historical Broadsides

Accessible Archives - 18th American journals (charges for the privilege)

The Spectator

The Tatler

The Female Spectator

The Rambler 1-54 (1750)

The Rambler 55-112 (1750-1751)

The Rambler 171-208 (1751-1752); The Adventurer 34-108

The Idler

Quotes on the latest fashion

Sources on homosexuality - Rictor Norton
says gay identity clear in early 18thC (1707)

Research tips England

Information about archival resources:

Information about the British Library: