Sunday, July 13, 2014

To Write a Distick upon It: Busks and the Language of Courtship and Sexual Desire in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century England

I'm so excited! As some of you will know, I'm currently a doctorate student at the University of Sydney in Australia researching the social history of undergarments in early modern England and France from 1550-1750.

Although this has been a long time coming (academic reviewing, editing and publishing takes a long time!) my article on busks and sexuality in sixteenth-and-seventeenth century England has been published! Here's a quick abstract:

"In previous academic discussions of the busk (an often elaborately decorated long, flat piece of wood, metal or bone that was placed down the front the early modern bodies and stays) it has often been presented as de-stabilizing: an item of dress that threatened established ideas of gender and sexuality. This article argues that in the vast majority of instances, far from disrupting social norms the busk supported them, opening a discursive space that afforded women a degree of flexibility at the same time as it reinforced their subordination to male authority and erotic desire. By placing the busk within the context of the corset in which it fit, as well as the social exchange (courtship and marriage) in which it was most commonly recorded, this article argues that the busk was not disruptive but rather it reinforced culturally constructed and socially acceptable expressions of male and female desire through the acts of giving, receiving and wearing."
As it is published in the Journal of Gender & History, and much of it will be incorporated into my completed PhD thesis, I can't put the article on my blog. But I do have it on my academia page to view HERE.

This seventeenth-century French metal busk bearing a man's portrait that proclaims:
"He enjoys sweet sighs, this lover, Who would very much like to take my place", is just
one of many that I discuss in my article.


  1. This looks so incredibly interesting! Alas, I am unable to access the paper. Congratulations on being published!

    1. Hi Abigael, I know this comment is a long time coming (apologies), but I've actually just uploaded the article onto my page. I've linked it into the blog post above. :)

  2. Great! I am off to read it now. :)