Carolyn E. Ware. Cajun Women and Mardi Gras: Reading the Rules Backward. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2007. Pp. xi+233, photographs, notes, index. $65.00 cloth, $24.95 paper.
In Cajun Women and Mardi Gras: Reading the Rules Backward Carolyn Ware furthers the field of folklore by focusing on an oft-ignored area of Mardi Gras studies: the contributions of women. Mardi Gras has been regularly described as a male-centered festival promoting and highlighting masculine virtues and values. Despite the professed prevalence of machismo in Mardi Gras runs, women have long quietly participated, supported, and perpetuated Mardi Gras traditions. In recent decades, women have both maintained their established services and assumed customarily masculine roles in these courirs, preserving and redefining Mardi Gras in the process. Continue reading “Carolyn E. Ware. Cajun Women and Mardi Gras: Reading the Rules Backward.”
Negotiating a Shire: The Transformation of Local Values in the Society for Creative Anachronism
The Society for Creative Anachronism is an international non-profit organization and is often depicted and discussed as a large homogeneous organization. Instead, in this work I have analyzed a smaller group, Loch an Fhraoich. Loch an Fhraoich, whose values and identity center around camaraderie and narrative and aesthetic coherence must attempt to balance these two often contradictory principles. This can be examined in light of narrative construction and maintenance. The Society for Creative Anachronism supports an official homogenous metanarrative. At every level these narratives connect the individual and group to others, creating a network of relationships and shared narratives that help create a sense of unity and prevent a fracturing of voices and thus support the overriding metanarrative. In order to prevent this system from collapsing inward or fracturing apart, a certain amount of playful transgressive metalepsis and edgeplay must be allowed. The negotiation of this edgeplay is debated, and the style and amount tolerated is often a distinguishing mark between groups. Some key contestations that I have focused on where this debate occurs include the levels and types of anachronism allowed, the types of partying and practical jokes encouraged or discouraged, costuming, and the understanding of honor and chivalry. Continue reading “Negotiating a Shire: The Transformation of Local Values in the Society for Creative Anachronism”
Within Their Own Seams: 19th Century Fashion and the Management of the Body in Women’s Literature and Letters
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”