I just finished reading Lynn Festa’s article entitled “Personal Effects: Wigs and Possessive Individualism in the Long Eighteenth Century,” published in Eighteenth-Century Life volume 29, issue 2 in 2005. It’s an excellent essay on what wearing a wig meant in the eighteenth century.

William Wycherley I read the essay in part because I’m looking for an article to begin my eighteenth-century class with next quarter. My course is going to focus on “The Making of the Modern Self: Writing Identity in the Long Eighteenth century,” so I want to begin with an article about identity that is kind of fun too. What could be more fun than wigs? Maybe I can help bring back wigs as a male fashion necessity! Here’s a portrait of William Wycherley — wouldn’t I look great in big, curly wig like his?!

Eighteenth-Century Life has become one of my favorite journals. I like that it publishes high quality articles about a wide range of interesting subjects. The most recent issue, for example, has articles on the significance of Venice for Scots in the Age of the Grand Tour; Violence, Virtue, and Politics in the Visual Culture of the French Revolution; displaying curiosities; and entomology. This article by Festa is typical in its ability to construct a complex argument that is of interest to general eighteenth-century scholars.

In this essay, Festa “addresses the shifting relation between personal possessions and personal identity, the objects one owns and the characteristics individuals are deemed to possess” (49). She’s interested in how wigs marked, but also obscured, individuality at various points in the long eighteenth century. It’s a fascinating study.