Maurizio Valsania (University of Turin)

Oct 4, 2018, 5-6 p.m., P 110 (Philosophicum)


In the 1760s, British colonies in North America agreed on boycotting the importation of goods. On occasion, upper-class Americans could reenact the so-called “age of homespun” much later on—George Washington’s 1789 mythic brown inaugural suit made in Hartford, Connecticut, is a wonderful example. But this may give the impression that Americans, including American republican leaders, did not care about style; that they had been created rugged; that they were cut off from the main trans-Atlantic cultural trends that, in the period, were being redefining fashion, civility, politeness, sensibility, and masculinity. My paper discusses two hypotheses. The first is that the Founding Figures (George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in particular) took part, knowingly, in a trans-Atlantic ongoing debate about style; second, that these men idealized their own bodies and deployed them as tools to channel a message of modernity. New political visions as well as new ideals concerning the modern white upper-class male were thus made visible.

This talk constitutes the keynote address of the “Transatlantic Conversations: New and Emerging Approaches to Early American Studies” conference (Oct 4-6, 2018).

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