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Postgraduate & Early-Career Seminar Series 2022: May

Postgraduate & Early-Career Seminar Series 2022: May

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May BSECS PG & ECR Seminar - Katie Aske and Lucy Haigh

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The last Thursday of each month BSECS hosts a seminar specially aimed at postgraduate and early-career researchers. Each seminar consists of two papers presented via Zoom, followed by a discussion.

Katie Aske, Northumbria University, 'Beauty and the Periodical'

This paper considers how the beauty of women was discussed in essays from The Spectator and The Lady’s Magazine in light of the period’s ongoing debate regarding the beauty of women’s minds verses the beauty of their bodies. In his letter ‘To the Spectator’ in 1711, Richard Steele wrote that the ‘management of a young lady’s person is not to be overlooked, but the erudition of her mind is much more to be regarded. According as this is managed, you will see the mind follow the appetites of the body, the body express the virtues of the mind.’ Similarly, an essay titled ‘The Beauty of the Mind preferable to that of the Body’ published in The Lady’s Magazine in 1773, declared that the ‘beauty of the mind has by far greater charms than that Of the body’ and suggested that if ‘the ladies would but attend to these remarks, which are adapted to every capacity, I am confident that they would be more eager to cultivate their minds, than to improve their complexions’. This paper explores the ways periodical literature deliberated the moral beauty of women. It asks to what extent these essays prescribed idealised and gendered social behaviours, offering examples to ‘the Fair-Sex’ not only as a means of moral conduct, but as a way to negotiate the sexualisation of physical beauty, which, as The Lady’s Magazine declared, invites a ‘thousand dangerous circumstances, from which the most fortunate do not always escape’.

Lucy Haigh, University of Derby, 'The Self vs The Public: Queen Charlotte and the Eighteenth-Century Political Print'

I am currently researching representations and misrepresentations of Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1761 until her death in 1818. During her time as consort, Charlotte’s physical appearance, intellect and femininity was questioned as a multitude of political cartoons were published depicting her and members of the royal family. In these cartoons, Charlotte was especially depicted as being “ugly” according to eighteenth-century beauty standards, and unintelligent. However, it is clear from analysing portraiture and royal commissions that Charlotte chose to celebrate her intelligence and successes in her role as queen which contrasts the negative light shone on her by the press. Therefore, it is clear to see that Charlotte was an early victim of the political press and was mocked in a similar way to how women in modern magazines and newspapers are criticised for their appearances. Despite the cruel images published of Charlotte, she maintained her image as an intelligent and beautiful woman throughout her reign. It is my aim to analyse why Charlotte was depicted in such a way in public and artistic viewings by relating it to wider themes such British attitudes towards foreign people in power, as well as attitudes towards intelligent women in the late eighteenth-century which continued into the early nineteenth century.

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