Campus News

Book focuses on women, clothing in novels

Women, Work, and Clothes in the Eighteenth-Century Novel
Chloe Wigston Smith
Cambridge University Press
Hardback: $95

Women, Work, and Clothes in the Eighteenth-Century Novel, written by Chloe Wigston Smith, examines the vexed and unstable relations between the 18th-century novel and the material world.

Rather than exploring dress’ transformative potential, it charts the novel’s vibrant engagement with ordinary clothes in its bid to establish new ways of articulating identity and market itself as a durable genre. In a world in which print culture and textile manufacturing traded technologies, and paper was made of rags, the novel, by contrast, resisted the rhetorical and aesthetic links between dress and expression, style and sentiment.

Smith, an assistant professor in the English department, shows how fiction exploited women’s work with clothing-through stealing, sex work, service, stitching and the stage-to revise and reshape material culture within its pages. Her book explores a diverse group of authors including Jane Barker, Jonathan Swift, Daniel Defoe, Eliza Haywood and Mary Robinson.