CFP: “First Impressions”: Faces, clothes, and bodies, 1600-1800

“First Impressions”: Faces, clothes, and bodies, 1600-1800

When: Thursday 10 November 2016, 9.30am to 5.30pm

Where: York Medical Society, York, UK

Submission guidelines: Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words in length and an accompanying 100 word biography to by Monday 29th August.

In the early modern world, ‘first impressions’ played a central role in the establishment and maintenance of individual and group identities; faces, clothes, and bodies provided a number of sensory clues as to a person’s gender, social status, age, and even health. Appearances were described, depicted, and consumed. However, anxiety over the potential for outward appearances to confuse, disguise, or deceive also gained increasing momentum in this period – ‘first impressions’ were not always as they seemed. Emulation and the erosion of the social hierarchy caused particular alarm, and even the most respectable members of society were now understood to be vulnerable to deception. Clothing, cosmetics, and deportment could all alter appearance and render ‘first impressions’ as shifting and uncertain. In addition, the dissemination of images and descriptions of appearances across the social hierarchy markedly increased throughout the period; the explosion of print culture meant that descriptions of felons were now widely circulated in newspapers, for example, whilst satirical prints prompted a familiarity with images of public figures.
This one-day interdisciplinary symposium takes ‘first impressions’ as a starting point in order to explore these issues, focusing on the many different ways in which appearances were understood, described, or depicted in early modern Europe, 1600-1800. The conference welcomes submissions from postgraduates and early career researchers working within any discipline. Proposals are for 20 minute individual papers.

Proposed topics may include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • Appearance and the social hierarchy – establishment or confusion of social hierarchy, regulation
  • Disseminating appearances – royalty, celebrity, print, portraiture, caricature
  • Crafting appearances – altered appearances, clothing, fashion, cosmetics, appearance as a political or social tool
  • Disguise and deception
  • Criminal appearances – criminals, prostitutes, the ‘lower sort’, the criminal body, trials
  • Health and medicine – appearance of health, physical marks of illness, complexion, posture, the body
  • Appearing different – social, racial, national, gender
  • Public and private appearances – domestic sphere, public sphere, gender
  • Beauty – ideal beauty, ugliness, representations
  • ‘First impressions’ – first meetings, friendship, love, attraction

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