Fairest of the Fair

“…. Where Bakhtin emphasized the dirt of the fair and the lower bodily stratum, the pedlar displays soap, mirrors and items of dental care, commodities of beautification (particularly for women) of a cosmetic nature. Consumption here is not the drunken excess of physical indulgence but rather the subtle intimation of lack in the very display of cosmetic repair. The body of the rural woman, reflected in ‘looking-glasses from Venice’, witnesses a triangulation of desire and body-image through ‘worldly’ goods. These commodities measure the body by another standard, they reveal its provincialism at the very moment of provoking, and appearing to satisfy narcissistic desires. The pedlar’s pack, like Belinda’s dressing table in The Rape of the Lock, critically ‘speaks’ the woman’s body through the display of fashionable commodities. If the fair displayed the grotesque body, it also displayed the ‘fair’.”

Stallybrass, Peter and Allon White. THE POLITICS AND POETICS OF TRANSGRESSION. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1986. 39. Print.

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