Refiguring the Coquette: Essays on Culture and Coquetry

Refiguring the Coquette: Essays on Culture and Coquetry

Refiguring the Coquette: Essays on Culture and Coquetry

Refiguring the Coquette: Essays on Culture and Coquetry

Synopsis

This is a collection of nine original essays selected and edited with a twofold aim: to establish the parameters of coquetry as it was defined and represented in the long 18th century, and to reconsider this traditional figure in light of recent work in cultural and gender studies.The essays provide analyses of lesser-known works, examine the depiction of the coquette in popular culture, explore the importance of coquetry as a contemporary term applicable to men as well as women, and amplify current theorisation of the coquette. By bringing together the diverse contexts and genres in which the figure of the coquette is articulated drama, art, fiction, life-writing Refiguring the Coquette offers alternative perspectives on this central figure in 18th-century culture.

Excerpt

That the coquette is a paradigmatic figure for the concerns of the long eighteenth century might seem, at first, an odd assertion. But the task of the present collection of essays is to return the coquette to her prime place as a site from which to explore broad, cultural concerns of the period. Refiguring the Coquette thus endeavors both to reexamine the parameters of coquetry as it was defined and represented in the long eighteenth century, and to reconsider the coquette in light of recent work in cultural and gender theory. Bringing together the diverse contexts and genres in which the figure of the coquette is articulated—drama, poetry, fiction, life-writing—the present collection moves beyond the locus classicus of the figure to amplify current theorizations of the coquette and of coquetry, to provide analyses of lesserknown works, to examine her depiction in popular culture, and to explore the importance of coquetry as a term applicable to men as well as women. In viewing her as an important, even paradigmatic figure, these essays reveal the coquette’s centrality to an emerging modernity tied to the rise of capitalism: they demonstrate her link to the emergence of a specular economy, to the anxiety of selfhood generated by accommodation to newly commercialized social relations, and to the rise of the middle classes and of middle-class culture. The three sections of the present study—mirroring the need to problematize, reexamine, and enlarge the terrain of coquetry—cover, respectively, issues pertaining to the coquette’s construction, to her familiar use as a mode of disciplining the female body, and to coquetry as a discourse of masculinity or as a disembodied narrative mode predicated upon flirtation and delay.

Two premises underlie our study: first, that the coquette is more than simply the “woman (more or less young), who uses arts to gain the admiration and affection of men, merely for the gratification of vanity or from a desire of conquest, and without any intention of responding to the feelings aroused; a woman who habitually trifles with the affections of men; a flirt” of the current OED definition. That definition may fit the coquette we have inherited from the end of the nineteenth century, a . . .

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