The Visionary World of the Lacemaker
Speaker: Dr. David Hopkin, Hertford College, University of Oxford
Place: Scandinavistica library
Department of Estonian and Comparative Folklore, University of Tartu,
Date: April 15, 2013
Information: Jontahan Roper, email@example.com
Abstract: Handmade lace is a strange textile which comes laden with meanings beyond the sartorial. According to numerous legends its origin was divine, and lace-making skills were often taught in pious institutions. It was a luxury product, sponsored by aristocrats, although made by the poorest in society. Both the product and its production were associated with the enforcement of female submission and modesty, but at the same time it carried an erotic charge. As lace was the last textile whose manufacture was mechanized we have an especially privileged access into the working world of lacemakers. In the nineteenth century they were the subject of considerable attention from the Church, from aristocratic patrons and from the state keen to encourage home-working. But they were also visited again and again by folklorists because lacemakers’ collective work patterns encouraged storytelling and singing. Many of the most important folksong and folktale collections from Flanders and France were made among lacemakers. What do these texts tell us about lacemakers’ lives and their relationship with their craft? Lacemakers rejected many aspects of what the state, church, lace-entrepreneurs and family patriarchs had in mind for them. What emerges instead is their relationship to the supernatural and the visionary quality of lacemakers’ imagination.
Note: This lecture was also given on January 18, 2011 at Oxford under the title “The visionary world of the lacemaker: religion, work and gender in the nineteenth-century lace industry”