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The Temporality of Taste in Eighteenth-Century British Writing$
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James Noggle

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199642434

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199642434.001.0001

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Appearance as Experience: Three Women’s Texts about Taste of the 1770s

Appearance as Experience: Three Women’s Texts about Taste of the 1770s

(p.124) 4 Appearance as Experience: Three Women’s Texts about Taste of the 1770s
The Temporality of Taste in Eighteenth-Century British Writing

James Noggle

Oxford University Press

Taking three texts about taste by women in the 1770s as examples, this chapter argues that the discourse of taste, after mid-century, disadvantages women in two distinct ways. It identifies them as objects of taste, composites of beautiful looks, family connections, ‘accomplishments’, etc. to be exchanged on the marriage market. It also portrays women as exceptionally tasteful subjects, in an often uncomplimentary way. Male and female commentators view the passionate, brisk sensitivity that makes taste especially feminine as inferior to slow, deliberative male judgement. But the writers discussed here, Hannah More, Anna Barbauld, and Frances Burney, show how these two types of feminine weakness may add up to a uniquely feminine strength. Women gain special insight into the discourse of taste by being both its exemplary subjects and exemplary objects, directly experiencing the interconnection between processes of beautification and the immediacy of beauty’s effect in ways most men do not.

Keywords:   Taste, women, femininity, Hannah More, Anna Letitia Barbauld, Frances Burney

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