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Including the nude: the Great Exhibition, class, gender and nationality in a Victorian mass-marketing magazine

Including the nude: the Great Exhibition, class, gender and nationality in a Victorian mass-marketing magazine

King, Andrew ORCID: 0000-0003-2348-4231 (1999) Including the nude: the Great Exhibition, class, gender and nationality in a Victorian mass-marketing magazine. Studii de Limbi și Literaturi Moderne: Studii de Anglistica si Americanistica. pp. 160-180. ISSN 1454-3648

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What are we to make of Figures 1 and 2? How are we to read them? We can use them as stimuli for fantasies or to congratulate ourselves on our cultural capital when we can decode iconographic codes. We can also try to read the images historically, trying to replace them in the cultural space of their initial reading.

Gillian Beer explored this issue in the 1980s, relating our
representations of the past to the representation of women. Starting from how men have tended to regard women as failed copies of themselves, denying that women are radically Other, Beer went on to consider the dangers of such narcissism for the ways we view the past. Her conclusion
took the form of an ethical imperative: historical contextualisation is necessary if we are to escape the destructive and oppressive possibilities of narcissism

"We shall read as readers in 1987 or 1988, or, with luck, in 1998, but we need not do so helplessly, merely hauling without noticing, our own cultural baggage ... the study of past writing within the conditions of its production disturbs the autocratic emphasis on the self and the present, as if they were stable entities..." Representing Women; Re-Presenting the Past", 63-80 in The Feminist Reader, ed. Catherine Belsey and Jane Moore, 1989:67.

While agreeing with Beer, I would go further in two ways. Firstly, I would apply her point to any epistemological project: to regard something as a reflex of oneself is to deny its essential Otherness, and so participate in oppression. Secondly, to continue in the cycle of narcissism is also a prison-house for the narcissist: "autocratic emphasis on the self" forecloses change and adaptivity, and therefore risks Miss Havisham-like decay. The effects of textualisation and its lack will form a major theme of this paper.

mass-market culture not yet so nationalistic as to force The London Journal into such a niche: giving its owner profits of about £10,000 a year (so that he had one of the 200 highest incomes in the country), it didn't want strict homogeneity and coherence. Instead it contributes to the collapse of epistemological desire for the "whole picture" into the political desire for coherent social body, and the erotic desire for the "complete body". Often however, only glimpses of coherence, playing peek-a-boo with "whole pictures" of various kinds, The London Journal main purpose was stimulate desire for itself, by whatever means were available.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: illustration, Great Exhibition, "London Journal"
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
Pre-2014 Departments: School of Humanities & Social Sciences
School of Humanities & Social Sciences > Creative, Critical & Communication Studies
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Last Modified: 03 Jan 2020 12:32

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