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Confidence Men and Painted Women: A Study of Middle-class Culture in America, 1830-1870 (Yale Historical Publications, Miscellany) Reprint Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Both men and women strove for sincerity in their appearance. In doing so, there arose an inherent contradiction to the ideals of 19th century behavior manuals: namely, that by focusing on the correct attire and etiquette to appear sincere renders the participant insincere. The rest of Halttunen's book looks at society's recognition of this contradiction, the practice of sincere outward appearances in parlor rooms, on the street, and even at funerals. She concludes that ultimately public appearance reconciled with personal insincerity. In short, by the Gilded Age, Americans had not only made peace with the division between ostensible outward appearance and supposed internal sincerity, but had learned to accept this contradiction as a social norm.
Author, Bad Bosses, Crazy Coworkers & Other Office Idiots
Halttunen argues that to remedy this problem, the middle class created a strict code of behavior that was supposed to convey the legitimacy of the person and their place in society. The irony of this was that the more the rule defined what it meant to be a genuine person the easier the style could be imitated by imposers. Thus the book traces the in some ways comic efforts to differentiate what it means to be a true gentleman and lady while trying to stay one step ahead of those that would take on the appearance without the substance and in truth one could argue that there was very little substance to it to begin with! As I read this I could not help but picture a dog perpetually chasing its tail without any chance of ever catching it, something that Halttunen says that the middle class of the post war period acknowledged actually embraced focusing more of the show of courtesy than what was going on in the persons head.
This is about as interesting a book on fashion and manners that i ever expect to read. It sheds some light on the overblown writing and dressing styles of the period as well as raise interesting questions about the standards for human interaction and what it means to dress and act respectable.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Focuses on customs and beliefs, which are not easy to interpret or analyze. Fine scholarly reading in a style that would be appealig to non-academic readers as well.Published on August 12, 2013 by Joe Smoke