Dec. 2, 2010 4pm
7191 Helen C. White Hall
"Wax Coral and Woolen Pac-Men: The Domestic Handicraft Paradigm, 1810-2010"
Amateur domestic handicraft had become an enormously popular hobby by the middle of the nineteenth century. Women pasted shells on boxes, formed wax flowers, designed scrap screens, cut cardboard into workbaskets, sewed fish scales to silk, twisted wire, spattered ink over ferns, stuffed birds. Through close readings of Victorian craft discourse, this talk analyzes the way women articulated their cultural concerns through handicraft. Domestic handicraft gave women a way to articulate their own modernity and industrial prowess, while simultaneously critiquing the modern financial world in which they lived. The talk concludes by explaining how the core values of contemporary craft actually update ideas first articulated by the Victorians.
Talia Schaffer is an associate professor of English at Queens College CUNY and the Graduate Center CUNY. She is the author of The Forgotten Female Aesthetes; Literary Culture in Late-Victorian England (2001); co-editor with Kathy A. Psomiades of Women and British Aestheticism (1999); editor of Lucas Malet's 1901 novel, The History of Sir Richard Calmady (2003); and editor of Literature and Culture at the Fin de Siècle (2006). Novel Craft: Fiction and the Victorian Domestic Handicraft (Oxford, forthcoming), is about the history of amateur handicraft and codes of aesthetic and economic representation in the mid-Victorian novel. She has published widely on noncanonical women writers, material culture, popular fiction, aestheticism, and late-Victorian texts.