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Lecture 005 - Noteable and Unexceptionable Women and the Public Sphere.docx

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Women's Studies
Women's Studies 2158A/B
Sonia Halpern

Lecture 005 – Notable & “Unexceptional” Women and the Public Sphere October 9, 2012 Outline Part I - Notable & (Heroic Political Actors)  Men Artists o Allegories o Sidelines 1. Women Artists  Political Actors Part II. “Unexceptional” Women 1) Men Artists o The Escorter 2) Women Artists o The “male gaze” 3) The “Male Gaze” as a joke - Public sphere  any area outside the home; throughout the history the public sphere was always deemed the domain of men, and that women were guests in the public sphere. - Tactics to make women feel like they aren’t part of the outside world o Men allowed to go topless, women not allowed (cause traffic accident) o Catcalls o Ladies Night at the Bars – other nights don’t belong to women, ladies night is “special” - Looking at images of women in the public sphere; when male artists show women in the public sphere, they are presented in two ways: as allegories, or as on the sidelines Allegories - Allegory – an abstract concept shown in some concrete form - i.e. the statue of liberty; because liberty (the notion of freedom) is an abstract concept, an idea; hard to convey an idea in pictorial ideas o Showing the concept of liberty and freedom - i.e. Valentine’s Day, showing the idea of love; love is an abstract concept – done through the female form of Venus - Method of choice for male artists when it comes to heroic women doing something in the public sphere - The Victory of Samothrace (Pythokritos of Rhodes, 190 BC) o Sculpture; goddess of victory (Nike) o Always has really large wings; that’s how you know it’s her o Marks a naval victory at Samothrace o Showing idea of victory; abstract concept of victory shown in a female figure o Mythological figure; doesn’t actually exist o Not a real woman; shows how male artist stay away from showing women as politically important figures – by showing them as allegories rather than performing actual heroic deeds - Liberty Leading the People (Delacroix, 1830) - Battlefield, very visible woman in image; is actually an allegory - Allegory of the idea of ‘freedom’ - Dress similar to Nike’s; bare breasted, no females allowed on battlefield, presentable and clean compared to male soldiers, not wearing any shoes, centralized and monumentalized (typical for allegories) – all indicators that she is an allegory, and not an actual person - Breasts are most illuminated part; drawing attention to her anatomy, adding sexual appeal - Men were not fans of depicting real women performing real heroic acts; did not want to view them with this much political power - Depicting them as allegories was a safe way of doing this - Distancing themselves from the idea as well Women on the Sidelines - The Oath of Horatii (David, 1786) o Father taking an oath with his three sons; oath was that no matter happens, that they were going to defend Rome even if it meant giving up their own lives to do so (from an ancient story) o Women of the family (wives, daughters, sisters) on the sidelines from the actual political action taking place; like David created this in three parts – dictated by the arches in the architecture; sons standing in front of one arch, father in front of another, and the women occupying the third arch o Women not doing anything we’d call heroic or political; women will be left to take care of everything if and when all the men taking the oath die (running the household, working) – could be considered heroic in the context of war o Women on sidelines mourning potential loss of their male kin o Women not at the centre of heroism; not an integral part of the heroic action of the public sphere Women Artists - Rejected notion of women as allegories and on the sidelines of public action - Had a different perspective of heroic actions by women; wanted to actually depict actions, not distance themselves from it - Showed women at the center of political action - Portia Wounding her Thigh (Elisabetta Sirani, 1664) - Story about Brutus and Caesar o Brutus wanted to overthrow Caesar; Portia wa Brutus’ wife. Portia wants Brutus to share his plans with her as to how he’s going to overthrow Caesar; Brutus refuses to tell her. o Brutus tells her that women don’t have enough character; Portia stabs herself in the thigh to proof she has strength of character. o Sirani shows Portia with her dress hiked up and the knife in her hand, just about to jab it in her thigh o Lighting is on most important parts of painting: face, hands, legs – expression on face conveys her focus – no fear, no disgust. o Red dress suggestive of blood about to gush out of her leg. o Skirt is hiked up not for gratuitous sexuality, but because it’s in the context of the story, keeping with the narrative o Uses the architecture to reinforce the story; women in background sitting and gossiping, and doing needlework to reinforce their domesticity o By juxtaposing Portia with the women gossiping, we’re seeing Brutus’s (and the male) perspective that all women are doing is gossiping; on Portia’s side, we’re seeing her perspective that women can be strong o Brutus did tell her everything after she stabbed herself; then Portia and Brutus have to be separated and she ultimately commits suicide because she has to be away from her husband (swallowed hot coals – connected with notion of gossip) o Even though it’s taking place in a domestic setting, still taking place in the public sphere; because Brutus tells her secrets belonging to public arena Zenobia in Chains (Harriet Hosmer, 1859) - Neo-classical sculpture because it references a story from ancient times - Woman named the Queen Palmyra ; defeated and captured by the Romans, Queen was taken away by the Romans - Visual representation of the Queen being captured - Injects a number of devices that suggest that even though she’s defeated, she’s going down with integrity and dignity o Suggests this by using a contrapposto stance (way of standing used in ancient times to show the dignity of heroic figures – one leg straight, one leg bent, one hip higher than the other, along with one shoulder), carrying chains – suggests that she has agency in her own defeat (not letting the chains drag her down, taking control and carrying the chains herself), contemplative expression (intellectual process, quiet dignity), still wearing her crown (maintaining her status as a queen) - Women at the centre of political action taking control of her own destiny Lord Nithsdale (Escape from the Tower of London) (Emily Mary Osbourn, 1860) - In 1716, a man named William Maxwell was the Earl of Nithsdale, a Scottish region. He had been imprisoned in the tower of London during the first Jacobite Uprising. The Jacobite Uprising was a political movement in Britain intent on restoring Stuart Kings to the thrones of England and Scotland. - The Stuart kings had been deposed by parliament. The Jacobites believed that parliament had no business with interfering with who had succeed in the monarch. The Jacobites protested the removal of the Stuarts. - The Earl of Nithsdale wanted to escape the tower of London b
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