By Tita Chico
Dressing rooms, brought into English household structure in the course of the 17th century supplied elite ladies with imprecedented inner most area at domestic and in so doing promised them an both unheard of autonomy through supplying an area for self-fashioning, eroticism and contemplation. Tita Chico's Designing girls argues that the dressing room turns into a strong metaphor in late-seventeenth- and eighteenth-century literature for either innovative and conservative satirists and novelists. those writers use the trope to symbolize competing notions of women?s independence and their objectification indicating that the dressing room occupies a significant (if overlooked) position within the heritage of personal lifestyles, postmodern theories of the closet and the improvement of literary types.
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Extra info for Designing Women: The Dressing Room in Eighteenth-Century English Literature and Culture
The trope of the dressing room offers a persuasive means of revising this debate. Nancy Armstrong sees in the novel’s origins an anxiety about what women were, as eighteenth-century domestic novels subordinate ‘‘all social differences to those based on gender . . ’’35 For Armstrong, the question of delimiting women—refashioning them as proper, middle-class subjects—was at the heart of novelistic discourse, and ultimately in line with the poetic tradition that looked to women as muses. 37 If we use the dressing room trope to think about the relationship between satire and the domestic novel, then we likewise see that their connection is equally unacknowledged by critics whose focus is satire and fiction, generally because the reading of satire is itself narrow.
44 If both forms are mimetic, however, then Paulson’s argument seems to be more suitable to the self-consciously domestic novels of Richardson and others, rather than to the comic novels of Fielding and Smollett. The focus of critics considering the relationship between satire and the domestic novel has preempted a thoughtful consideration of the extent to which the tradition of satirizing women contributed to the development of narratives about female subjects, even though the novelists themselves were acutely aware of the precedent.
92 My work instead offers a beginning corrective for the erasure of women in general from theories of the closet. There certainly were dressing rooms for men—Lord Chesterfield conducted (in)famous business in his—but they were provinces for male prerogative (linked in type to the gentleman’s closet) rather than sites of anxiety. When men’s private parts came under scrutiny, the effect was much more likely to suggest that the particular man was a deviant, rather than that an entire gender was. Examples such as the Baron’s altar in The Rape of the Lock, Colley Cibber’s account of Pope’s impotence with a prostitute in his ‘‘Tom-Tit’’ story, and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s satire of Swift’s impotence with another prostitute all suggest that these men fail individually, rather than collectively.