la jambe de vestris

one of the good things about studying english lit:  you get to read articles entitled “consistent inconsistencies: the transvestite actress madame vestris and charlotte bronte’s shirley.”

it’s really interesting (and quite racy).  victorian audiences were turned on my madame vestris’ figure.  she was thought to have the “perfect leg.”  in fact, it was cast in plaster and sold as “la jambe Vestris.”  it sold very quickly.  i get this image in my brain of the ninteteenth-century version of the leg lamp in a christmas story (fraaa-giiii-lee… it must be italian!).

i image-googled her, and i find that a lot of illustrations of madame vestris do, indeed, give her very shapely legs:

they look a little mannish, but i suppose that’s appropriate, since she played “breeches parts,” also known as the part of “principal boy.”  in these roles women played men — not particularly to create gender ambiguity but rather to highlight female sexuality (men loved to watch madame vestris strut the stage in “abbreviated male outfits”).  the most famous of such parts is peter pan.

i love finding articles like this, because they undermine the notion that victorians were straight-laced high-necked losers who refused to acknowledge their own sexualities.  i haven’t read the history of sexuality by foucault yet, although i will this semester.  apparently he debunks the non-sexual victorian stereotype, as well.  go foucault.  i always knew i loved you.  i tried to find a picture of foucault’s shapely legs, but most of his portraits highlight his shaplier, sexier, bald pate:

so in closing, before i head off to bed…

reasons why i love foucault:
1.  the fact that i understand him, which is more than i can say about a lot of theory.
2.  i have found him applicable in almost every seminar i’ve taken.
3.  he isn’t afraid to tell it like it is when it comes to drawing and quartering.
4.  in noun form, he is foucault.  in adjective form, he is foucaldian.  i still wish it was foucaultian, as that resembles an alien race.
5.  his obvious sex appeal.


10 thoughts on “la jambe de vestris

  1. Yes, but why does Foucault have to always write in circles? I think I’m just too linear and structured to be able to deal with that. Granted, I’ve only read one essay, about his power theory, and it is supposed to be one of the more confusing things he’s written. In my limited experience reading theory, so far I like Baudrillard the best, even if some of the stuff he says (especially the stuff about Americans) makes me mad.

    • oh yeah — sorry i didn’t reply to your earlier comment about this.

      i think you will find that some of his other writing is more straightforward, but i do think that there’s a purpose to his round-about-ness, especially in his writing about power. for example, when writing about the panopticon (i’m not sure if that’s in the essay you read or not…), i think the style stresses not only that the processes that exert power over the individual are always there and all interconnected, but also that anyone can inhabit the watchtower, so power can come from all (and unexpected) directions. and thus his logic seems to come from all (and unexpected) directions.

      but i definitely understand your frustration with theory. i’m right there with ya, sistah.

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