Abstract

This essay explores the complex signifying power of hair in visual and written representations of the eighteenth-century actress, concentrating on painted, graphic, sculpted, and literary portraits of Dorothy Jordan (1761­1861). It is argued that representations of Jordan's coiffured, flowing, or disheveled curls carried important symbolic, cultural and gendered meanings for her contemporary audience. The essay examines the different ways in which images of the actress and her famous curls, on and off stage, contributed to the idea of Jordan as a "natural" actress who could somehow deny the mediating effects of performance and theatrical masquerade. Her curls became a recognizable sign--or metonym--for her status as a theatrical performer, her class, and her femininity. Such meanings were rooted not only in questions of fashion and taste, but also in more serious debates on aesthetic judgment and desirable feminine sexuality.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-315X
Print ISSN
0013-2586
Pages
pp. 145-163
Launched on MUSE
2004-10-11
Open Access
No
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