Within Their Own Seams: 19th Century Fashion and the Management of the Body in Women’s Literature and Letters

Within Their Own Seams: 19th Century Fashion and the Management of the Body in Women’s Literature and Letters

Kristiana Willsey
Indiana University


Elizabeth Gaskell’s 1855 novel, North and South, demonstrates the significant position women’s fashion played in the construction and maintenance of identity and self-expression.  Drawing on Gaskell’s novel as well as excerpts from other 19th century women’s letters, travelogues, and memoirs, we see how through imported fashions, English women participated in Empire making and confronted the problems of establishing English identity abroad. Women simultaneously occupied particular local identities and transcended them, articulating the tensions of maintaining both national and international identities through the feminine medium of fashion. At the same time, the tightly managed, corseted body represented a complex response to the advent of modernism. Continue reading “Within Their Own Seams: 19th Century Fashion and the Management of the Body in Women’s Literature and Letters”


Ulrich Marzolph, ed. The Arabian Nights in Transnational Perspective

Ulrich Marzolph, ed. The Arabian Nights in Transnational Perspective. Wayne State University Press, 2007. 348 pages, $31.95 paper.

Fredericka Schmadel
Indiana University

Ulrich Marzolph, editor of Wayne State University Press’s 2007 book, The Arabian Nights in Transnational Perspective, called the Nights a “shape shifter (ix)” and as such, slippery and elusive, especially in view of the torrent of translations, imitations, inclusions, and scholarly and – in the Middle East, ethicist – commentary or even condemnation over the centuries. A transnational perspective is an absolute necessity when one considers that the work in question predates the advent of the modern nation-state. Like the pyramids of Egypt, this collection has lasted untold centuries, but unlike the pyramids, it has moved from its original location to settle into many cultures, many traditions. In this book we glimpse the Nights in a Hawaiian translation, see its reflection in France – the France of long ago and of not so long ago – as well as Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Greece, Baluchistan, India, Japan, Turkey, Persian-influenced countries, Afghanistan, and the international realms of feminist theory, oral performance, psychology, and, of course, politics. We see, in Aboubakr Chraibi’s words, the homage reality pays to this fictional universe, this compilation that has grown and changed over many centuries. It’s clear from the scope and the variety of the contributions that this collection will inspire further research. Continue reading “Ulrich Marzolph, ed. The Arabian Nights in Transnational Perspective”

Harold Hinds, et al. Popular Culture Theory and Methodology: A Basic Introduction

Harold E. Hinds, Jr., Marilyn F. Motz, and Angela M. S. Nelson, eds. Popular Culture Theory and Methodology: A Basic Introduction. Madison: Popular Press/ University of Wisconsin Press, 2006. Pp. vii + 406, introduction, bibliography. $65.00 hardcover, $21.95 paperback.

Trevor J. Blank
Indiana University

The relationship between folklore and popular culture has been the subject of scrutiny amongst folklorists, and the study of the connections between these fields is problematic for scholars entangled in debates over the scope and legitimacy of their disciplines. The comparative analysis of popular culture by folklorists has been peripheral, not rigorous. However, it is important to note the influential role of popular culture on folklore, and this field certainly merits the attention of folklorists and cultural historians. Popular Culture Theory and Methodology provides a wonderful introduction for folklorists and interested scholars seeking to enhance their knowledge of the core fundamental theories, methods, and debates that have shaped the popular culture discipline since its acceptance as a serious academic field in the 1960s. Continue reading “Harold Hinds, et al. Popular Culture Theory and Methodology: A Basic Introduction”