Online Lecture | Amelia Rauser, Black Bodies and Neoclassical Whiteness

Posted in lectures (to attend) by Editor on June 17, 2020

Agostino Brunias, ‘A Negroes Dance in the Island of Dominica’, 1779, engraving on laid paper
(Lewis Walpole Library, 779.02.15.01)

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From the Lewis Walpole Library:

Amelia Rauser, Black Bodies and Neoclassical Whiteness in the Age of Undress
Online lecture organized by the Lewis Walpole Library, 24 June 2020

Registration due by 22 June 2020

Women who wore the high-waisted, white muslin dress fashionable in the 1790s strove to participate in the elevated aesthetics of neoclassicism and to construe themselves as living statues, Pygmalions to their own Galatea. The dress articulated an anti-fashion stance that created space for women’s artistic expression. But neoclassical dress was also enmeshed with emergent concepts of race in the 1790s—not via a simple mapping of whiteness onto classicism, but rather, and perhaps unexpectedly, by invoking the plantation culture of the West Indies. In this talk, Dr. Amelia Rauser, Professor of Art History at Franklin & Marshall College, will argue that several elements of the neoclassical ensemble, including gold earrings, madras-cloth accessories, headwraps, and especially the materiality of muslin itself, specifically articulated the wearer’s racialized whiteness. Yet at the same time, the idea of metamorphosis inherent in the living statue undermined racial binaries and provided space to explore a spectrum of embodiment.

Dr. Rauser will be introduced by Joseph Roach, Sterling Professor Emeritus of Theater, Professor Emeritus of English, Yale University. Panel discussants Dr. Carolyn Day, Associate Professor of History, Furman University, and Dr. Jennifer Germann, Associate Professor and Department Chair, Art History, Ithaca College, will lead a Q&A. Registered attendees will be invited to submit questions and comments through chat.

The lecture is scheduled for Wednesday, 24 June 2020, at 1.00pm EDT; registration is required by Monday, 22 June 2020.

The talk presented in connection with the exhibition Artful Nature: Fashion and Theatricality, 1770–1830, which was co-curated by Laura Engel, Professor of English, Duquesne University, and Amelia Rauser. Other related online content includes:
Artful Nature exhibition
• Keynote Lecture “Fashionable Friends: Glamour as Argument, 1770–1830,” delivered by Joseph Roach on 6 February 2020
• Exhibition video tour with the curators

Dr. Rauser’s new book, The Age of Undress: Art, Fashion, and the Classical Ideal in the 1790s, is now available from Yale University Press.



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