Followers of Fashion: Mapping the Social and Political Genealogy of the Literary Fop 1660-1789

Davies-Shuck, Montana Elyse (2021) Followers of Fashion: Mapping the Social and Political Genealogy of the Literary Fop 1660-1789. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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Abstract

This thesis examines the topical resonance of the popular figure of the fop in British literature of the long eighteenth century. Previous examinations of the fop cluster around the figure’s first popularisation on the Restoration stage. My study, however, covers the far broader period 1660-1789 to argue that the fop’s topical relevance extended far beyond the Restoration years. The study is bookended by two major events, the Restoration of the British Monarchy, and the onset of the French Revolution. These events, I suggest, were integral to the fop’s initial popularization and subsequent disappearance within British culture.

The thesis adopts a long chronological approach in order to make new arguments as to the fop’s significance as a figure deployed within cultural discourse to register shifting socio-political anxieties. The study investigates the ways in which the stable set of characteristics which scholars have come to associate with the fop – vanity, excess, fashionability, and Frenchness – are repurposed at key moments throughout the long eighteenth century. I argue that to fully understand the significance of the fop as a touchstone for debates on masculinity, national identity, and luxury, we must recontextualise the figure and recognize the fop’s development as a character type throughout the century.

My enquiry starts by considering how issues of gender impact upon both the portrayal and reception of fops. Addressing the lack of scholarly interest that has been paid to the female fop, I argue that the figure provides an interesting counterpoint to the male fop’s development as a character type. My second chapter engages with existing scholarship on the fop in the Restoration. Diverging from these studies, however, I read the fop’s proliferation and popularization as a direct result of Charles II’s Restoration and as registering concerns over French influences on both king and country. I argue that the fop functioned as an example of failed Stuart masculine identity. My third chapter considers how periodicalists in the early decades of the eighteenth century utilized the essay form to expose and challenge the fashionable façade of the fop and in doing so draw attention to the destabilising effect of fashion as a signifier of status. Moving towards the 1770s and 1780s, the fourth chapter considers the figure of the macaroni. Whereas previous studies conflate the macaroni and the fop, I focus on issues of sexual identity in order to assert their dissimilarities. The study concludes that the fop’s demise from popular literary and political imagination coincides with the French Revolution, as the fop’s defining association with French affection made the figure unsustainable within this new political context.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Eighteenth Century, Character, National Identity, Caricature, Masculinity
Subjects: L700 Human and Social Geography
L900 Others in Social studies
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Humanities
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2021 08:30
Last Modified: 16 Jun 2021 08:30
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/46453

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