Agneta Helmius: PhD Dissertation Defence

  • Date: –12:00
  • Location: Engelska parken Ihresalen
  • Organiser: Department of History of Science and Ideas
  • Contact person: Maja Bondestam
  • Disputation

Agneta Helmius, Mode och hushåll: Om formandet av kön och media i frihetstidens svenska små- och veckoskrifter.

Opponent: Cecilia Rosengren, Docent in History of Science and Ideas, University of Gothenburg.

 

Abstract

This thesis, Fashion and the household: The formation of media and gender in 18th Century Swedish periodicals and pamphlets, deals with the formation of media and gender in 18th Century Sweden using fashion and the household as themes of discussion and gender as an analytical category. The material used consists of periodicals, small prints and series of pamphlets published from the 1730s to the 1770s in Sweden, and one engraving showing five housewives beating a husband on his bare buttocks printed in 1755. According to both writers of that time and to earlier research these periodicals and pamphlets, printed in small editions and circulated mostly in the capital of Stockholm, meant a breakthrough for a new public discourse. 

One aim is to study how gender was used, discussed and constructed in this new media. Another aim is to study how gender was used to create modern forward looking identities. Of particular interest in this new media is the debate on modernity and how it brought about new views on modern society including both gender relations and the construction of public and private spheres. The public discourse fostered a debate on the privatization of the household.

The perspective chosen is meant to show how gender was used differently, on different levels by both male and female writers depending on purpose or agenda and sometimes in opposition to the described changes taking place. Gender could be used both benevolently and with hostility.

By using gender as analytical category the public discourse studied in this thesis is decoded showing how both society and the public discourse, simultaneously, were gendered in new ways. It presents a debate of modernity on the threshold to modernity, and a debate on the exploitation of private vices and the privatization or marginalization of the household, later to be described as a division of private and public spheres.