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Hair in Nineteenth-Century French Literature and Culture

Carol Rifelj

Balzac claimed that toilettes were the expression of society. Coiffures describes the historical and cultural practices associated with women's hairstyles, hair care, and hair art in nineteenth-century France. Hair also has profound symbolic significance. Lying on the border between life and death, it grows, but does not feel. It marks sexual identity; it can be wild and erotic or tamed and made docile by hairdressing. Literary works are inevitably informed by social and cultural practices, and those of the period make extensive use of the meanings of hair. The Realist novelists in particular devote great attention to the physical traits and dress of their characters, and hair is often a key element in their descriptions and plots. Coiffures shows how a wide range of literary works incorporate the manifold aspects of hair, and it examines particular texts in detail, including works by Balzac, Sand, Flaubert, Zola, Gautier, Maupassant, and Rodenbach. « less more »
University Press Copublishing Division / University of Delaware Press
Pages: 298Size: 6 3/4 x 9 3/4
978-1-61149-148-7 • Hardback • June 2010 • $90.00 • (£60.00)
Carol Rifelj was a professor of French at Middlebury College.
Women's hair figured prominently in 19th century French society and publications. Following an examination of hairstyles and their cultural associations (e.g., with gender, the erotic, death, as commodities), Rifelj (French, Middlebury College, Vermont) reads the social and symbolic roles that hair played in literary representations of the new body ideal of the era in fashion magazines such as (1797- 1839), and as clues to social status, sexual availability and character in the fiction of major French authors including Baudelaire, Balzac, Flaubert, and Zola. Images include fashion magazine and art illustrations, advertisements, and jewelry fashioned with hair.
Book News, Inc.

Inspiring in its attention to sociological detail, its fluid writing, and its careful consideration of major 19th-century French writers, this study is chiefly concerned with the novel, though the author also touches on theater and poetry….Summing up: highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers.