Tuesday, 2 June 2009

A Fascination with Hair

I've been, pondering the Victorians' obsession with hair, particularly women's hair. If you have JSTOR access, I'd really recommend you check out The Power of Women's Hair in the Victorian Imagination. Like most academic reading, though, it requires effort. Hence I've not read all that much of it!

Pictures are much more suited to my mood in these post-dissertation days. Check out The Seven Sunderland Sisters. That is some impressive hair. There seems to be an element of the freak show about them - not necessarily in a negative way: there's money to be made if you can make yourself worth staring at. Hair could also be considered erotic, of course (it still is, in many cultures, hence the obligatory headscarves and whatnot), which I suppose must have had something to do with why it was usually tied up. In some of those pictures, the Sunderland sisters get as close to suggestive as can be expected of the time.

One can't neglect to mention, of course, mourning jewellery, made from the deceased's hair. Most people are grossed out by it. I'm not, particularly, though I can appreciate why people are. It has been cut off a corpse. Even so, why is a corpse itself revolting before it has even begun to decay? Victorian attitudes must have been different to this kind of thing. More accustomed to death, I suppose. Why would they want the deceased's hair? If it were simply a reminder, surely anything would serve? It seems to be a way of holding on to, literally, a little part of someone, a little part that can be immortal.

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