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Reed (2018 Congress)

Jaclyn Reed
(Western University, London, Ontario)

“Fashioning an Aristocratic Identity for Posterity:
Anne Clifford and the Rhetoric of Clothing”

Abstract of Paper
To be presented at the 53rd International Congress on Medieval Studies
(Kalamazoo, 2018)

Session on
“Manuscript (Trans)formations: Transmission and Reception”

Sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence
Organized by Derek Shank and Justin Hastings
2018 Congress Program

[Published on 23 April 2018]

Much of the scholarly interest in the memoir and diary of Anne Clifford (1590–1676) has either focused on her legal battles and the identity that she constructed through her mentions of her social life, her travels, and her lineage or viewed her manuscripts as historical artifacts rather than as literature. My work expands on the previous scholarship by Barbara Lewalski, Katherine Acheson, Megan Matchinske, and Alice Friedman — all of whom have looked at the ways in which Clifford constructs an identity for herself through her diaries — by analyzing Clifford’s repeated mentions of clothing as a rhetorical strategy and a tactic and by expanding my literary analysis beyond her diaries to her account book manuscripts.

I contend that her mentions of clothing serve a rhetorical purpose by indicating her emotional states at times and are part of her effort to fashion an embodied aristocratic identity for herself and her descendants that is in line with her other efforts to prove and record her aristocratic lineage but is more physical than her commentary on society. In addition to The Diary of 1616–1619, I analyze Clifford’s account-book manuscripts, the portraits she commissioned, and Bishop of Carlisle Edward Rainbow’s sermon from her funeral in 1676 — all of which reflect her relationship towards clothing at various points throughout her long life. I also illustrate how Clifford’s account-book manuscripts reference clothing in ways that interact with the mentions in her diary and indicate that Clifford treated clothing as a tactic of resistance within her patriarchal society.

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Portrait in 1618 by William Larkin of Anne Clifford, Countess of Dorset and later Countess of Pembroke (1590 - 1676). London, National Portrait Gallery, image in the Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Portrait in 1618 by William Larkin of Anne Clifford, Countess of Dorset and later Countess of Pembroke (1590 – 1676). London, National Portrait Gallery, image in the Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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'The Great Picture', commissioned in 1646 by Lady Anne Clifford, 14th Baroness de Clifford, Countess Dowager of Dorset, Pembroke and Montgomery (1590-1676). Kendal, Cumbria, Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal. Image in the Public Domain, via Wikipedia Commons.

‘The Great Picture’, commissioned in 1646 by Lady Anne Clifford, 14th Baroness de Clifford, Countess Dowager of Dorset, Pembroke and Montgomery (1590-1676). Kendal, Cumbria, Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal. Image in the Public Domain, via Wikipedia Commons.