Appearance as Experience: Three Women’s Texts about Taste of the 1770s

James Noggle

in The Temporality of Taste in Eighteenth-Century British Writing

Published in print February 2012 | ISBN: 9780199642434
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738579 | DOI:
Appearance as Experience: Three Women’s Texts about Taste of the 1770s

More Like This

Show all results sharing this subject:

  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)


Show Summary Details


Taking three texts about taste by women in the 1770s as examples, this chapter argues that the discourse of taste, after mid-century, disadvantages women in two distinct ways. It identifies them as objects of taste, composites of beautiful looks, family connections, ‘accomplishments’, etc. to be exchanged on the marriage market. It also portrays women as exceptionally tasteful subjects, in an often uncomplimentary way. Male and female commentators view the passionate, brisk sensitivity that makes taste especially feminine as inferior to slow, deliberative male judgement. But the writers discussed here, Hannah More, Anna Barbauld, and Frances Burney, show how these two types of feminine weakness may add up to a uniquely feminine strength. Women gain special insight into the discourse of taste by being both its exemplary subjects and exemplary objects, directly experiencing the interconnection between processes of beautification and the immediacy of beauty’s effect in ways most men do not.

Keywords: Taste; women; femininity; Hannah More; Anna Letitia Barbauld; Frances Burney

Chapter.  12742 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.