Historical Style connects the birth of eighteenth-century British consumer society to the rise of historical self-consciousness. Prior to the eighteenth century, British style was slow to change and followed the cultural and economic imperatives of monarchical regimes. By the 1750s, however, a growing fashion press extolled, in writing and illustration, the new phenomenon of periodized fashion trends. As fashion fads came in and out of style, and as fashion texts circulated and obsolesced, Britons were forced to confront the material persistence of out-of-date fashions. Timothy Campbell argues that these fashion texts and objects shaped British perception of time and history by producing new curiosity about the very recent past, as well as a new self-consciousness about the means by which the past could be understood.
In a panoptic sweep, Historical Style brings together art history, philosophy, and literary history to portray an era increasingly aware of itself. Burgeoning consumer society, Campbell contends, highlighted the distinction between the past and the present, created an expectation of continual change, and forged a sense of history as something that could be tracked through material objects. Campbell assembles a wide range of writings, images, and objects to render this eighteenth-century landscape: commercial dress displays and David Hume’s ideas of novelty as historical form; popular illustrations of recent fashion trends and Sir Joshua Reynolds’s aesthetic precepts; fashion periodicals and Sir Walter Scott’s costume-saturated historical fiction. In foregrounding fashion to trace eighteenth-century historicism, Historical Style draws upon the interdisciplinary, multimedia archival impressions that fashionable dress has left behind, as well as the historical and conceptual resources within the field of fashion studies that literary and cultural historians of eighteenth-century and Romantic Britain have often neglected.
Timothy Campbell teaches English at the University of Chicago.
Since the early decades of the eighteenth century, European, and especially British, thinkers were preoccupied with questions of taste. Whether Americans believed that taste was innate—and therefore a marker of breeding and station—or acquired—and thus the product of application and study—all could appreciate that taste was grounded in, demonstrated through, and confirmed by reading, writing, and looking. It was widely believed that shared aesthetic sensibilities connected like-minded individuals and that shared affinities advanced the public good and held great promise for the American republic.
Exploring the intersection of the early republic’s material, visual, literary, and political cultures, Catherine E. Kelly demonstrates how American thinkers acknowledged the similarities between aesthetics and politics in order to wrestle with questions about power and authority. Judgments about art, architecture, literature, poetry, and the theater became an arena for considering political issues ranging from government structures and legislative representation to qualifications for citizenship and the meaning of liberty itself. Additionally, if taste prompted political debate, it also encouraged affinity grounded in a shared national identity. In the years following independence, ordinary women and men reassured themselves that taste revealed larger truths about an individual’s character and potential for republican citizenship. Continuer la lecture de Publication : “Republic of Taste Art, Politics, and Everyday Life in Early America”.
Through the story of a portrait of a woman in a silk dress, historian Zara Anishanslin embarks on a fascinating journey, exploring and refining debates about the cultural history of the eighteenth-century British Atlantic world. While most scholarship on commodities focuses either on labor and production or on consumption and use, Anishanslin unifies both, examining the worlds of four identifiable people who produced, wore, and represented this object: a London weaver, one of early modern Britain’s few women silk designers, a Philadelphia merchant’s wife, and a New England painter.
Blending macro and micro history with nuanced gender analysis, Anishanslin shows how making, buying, and using goods in the British Atlantic created an object-based community that tied its inhabitants together, while also allowing for different views of the Empire. Investigating a range of subjects including self-fashioning, identity, natural history, politics, and trade, Anishanslin makes major contributions both to the study of material culture and to our ongoing conversation about how to write history. Continuer la lecture de Publication : “Portrait of a Woman in Silk. Hidden Histories of the British Atlantic World”.