Don’t miss our rescheduled Women’s History Month Special Seminar featuring Professor Karen Harvey, who will be sharing her research in a paper titled ‘Women’s Embodied Lives in Letters: Britain, 1680-1820’!
Wednesday, 7 June 2023, at 4pm BST/GMT+1
Sign-up now for our online-only Zoom seminar here.
Women’s Embodied Lives in Letters: Britain, 1680-1820
Eighteenth-century letters – whether written by men or women – are full of women’s bodies. Ailing, caring, pained, pregnant, ageing and dying, women’s bodies are described in often startling detail. This paper examines over 2000 letters for evidence of women’s embodied lives during the period 1680-1820. It uses the letters to reconstruct the range of physical activities in which women engaged, the common complaints (physical and emotional) from which they reportedly suffered, and the treatments they used to alleviate these. It also considers specifically the letters women wrote, interrogating the networks of bodily knowledge and social support that women developed through the epistolary form.
About the Speaker
Karen Harvey is Professor of Cultural History at the University of Birmingham. Her research focuses on gender and the body in eighteenth-century Britain. Her books include Reading Sex in the Eighteenth Century: Bodies and Gender in English Erotic Culture (2004), The Little Republic: Masculinity and Domestic Authority in Eighteenth-Century Britain (2012) and The Imposteress Rabbit Breeder: Mary Toft and Eighteenth-Century England (2020). Her current projects include edited volumes on beauty in the eighteenth century and on the material body in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England. Karen also directs the Leverhulme-funded project ‘Material Identities, Social Bodies: Embodiment in British Letters c.1680-1820’ (https://socialbodies.bham.ac.uk/), which has produced a publicly available dataset of eighteenth-century letters and from which this paper is drawn.