That the self is ‘performed’, created through action rather than having a prior existence, has been an important methodological intervention in our understanding of human experience. It has been particularly significant for studies of gender, helping to destabilise models of selfhood where women were usually defined in opposition to a male norm. In this multidisciplinary collection, scholars apply this approach to a wide array of historical sources, from literature to art to letters to museum exhibitions, which survive from the medieval to modern periods. In doing so, they explore the extent that using a model of performativity can open up our understanding of women’s lives and sense of self in the past. They highlight the way that this method provides a significant critique of power relationships within society that offers greater agency to women as historical actors and offers a challenge to traditional readings of women’s place in society. An innovative and wide-ranging compilation, this book provides a template for those wishing to apply performativity to women’s lives in historical context.
This book was originally published as a special issue of Women’s History Review.
1. Introduction: Performing the Self: women’s lives in historical perspective Katie Barclay and Sarah Richardson 2. Performing the Self, Performing the Other: gender and racial identity construction in the Nanteuil Cycle Victoria Turner 3. Writing the Self: the journal of Sarah Stoddart Hazlitt, 1774–1843 Gillian Beattie-Smith 4. Writing Women’s Histories: women in the colonial record of nineteenth-century Hong Kong Jane Berney 5. Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon’s Travel Letters: performative identity-formation in epistolary narratives Meritxell Simon-Martin 6. ‘A notable personality’: Isabella Fyvie Mayo in the public and private spheres of Aberdeen Lindy Moore 7. ‘The Subject is Obscene: No Lady Would Dream of Alluding to It’: Marie Stopes and her courtroom dramas Lesley Hall 8. Body and Self: learning to be modern in 1920s–1930s Britain Charlotte Macdonald 9. Performing the Political Self: a study of identity making and self representation in the autobiographies of India’s first generation of parliamentary women Annie Devenish 10. Eve Drewelowe: feminist identity in American art Lindsay E. Shannon 11. Women Activists: rewriting Greenham’s history Elaine Titcombe 12. The Changing Face of Exhibiting Women’s Wartime Work at the Imperial War Museum Alyson Mercer 13. Concluding Thoughts: performance, the self, and women’s history Penny Summerfield