Fashioning Masculinity: National Identity and Language in by Dr Michele Cohen, Michele Cohen

By Dr Michele Cohen, Michele Cohen

The fashioning of English gents within the eighteenth century was once modelled on French practices of sociability and dialog. Michele Cohen indicates how while, the English built their cultural kinfolk with the French as kin of seduction and hope. She argues that this produced nervousness at the a part of the English over the impact of French practices on English masculinity and the advantage of English ladies. by way of the tip of the century, representing the French as an effeminate different used to be necessary to the forging of English, masculine nationwide identification. Michele Cohen examines the derogation of ladies and the French which observed the emergent 'masculine' English id. whereas taciturnity turned emblematic of the English gentleman's intensity of brain and masculinity, sprightly dialog was once obvious as representing the shallow and inferior mind of English ladies and the French of either sexes. Michele Cohen additionally demonstrates how seen proof of women' verbal and language studying talents served simply to construe the feminine brain as inferior. She argues that this notion nonetheless has forex this day.

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From the start, it was ‘associated with, and often identified with gentlemanliness’. Thus, as it infused increasing areas of English social and cultural life, politeness reflected what Klein describes as the ‘appropriation of the world of social, intellectual and literary creation by gentlemen’. Defined at its simplest as a ‘dextrous management of words and actions’, the intricate play of manners, language, self-display, sociability and je ne sais quoi that constituted politeness became central to the self-fashioning of the gentleman.

My concern here however is not so much with explaining who the fops were, but with discussing two of their outstanding and recurring traits: their Frenchified manners and language,62 and their predilection for the company of women. FOPS AND THE FRENCH CONNECTION From Sir Fopling Flutter in Etheredge’s Man of Mode, to Lord Foppington in Vanbrugh’s The Relapse and young Buck in Samuel Foot’s ‘The ENGLISHMAN return’d from Paris’,63 fops affect French dress, French manners and French ‘smatterings’.

Men, it was alleged, talk about serious matters. 58 Once again, Scudéry’s lively pen provides the best illustration. She describes arriving in a room full of women chatting; the conversation is tedious, lacking in that indispensable quality of divertissement [entertainment]. ] And, added Scudéry, he was not even a remarkable man, ‘un de ces esprits élevés qu’on trouve si rarement’ [one of these elevated minds that one meets so rarely]. Yet his mere presence brought order in the conversation. Thus while women’s conversation disciplined that of males, the presence of a man regulated women’s talk.

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