AB: Summers – Bound to Please

(This is an entry in the Annotated Bibliography.)

Summers, Leigh. Bound to Please: A History of the Victorian Corset. Oxford: Berg, 2001.

This is an academic text from the series “Dress, Body, Culture,” which takes the approach of problematizing the corset and examining it as means by which women bought into their own subjugation. According to the text’s back matter: “The author reveals how ‘steels and bones’, which damaged bodies and undermined mental health, were a crucial element in constructing middle-class women as psychologically submissive subjects.” In my perusal of this text, I did not find it convincing or particularly well-cited. I believe that the approach taken in Valerie Steele’s book, The Corset: A Cultural History, published the same year, is more balanced and open-minded, but if someone were doing a detailed study of corset historiography, this could be a useful resource. In general, I would not recommend it. It is not instructional. It has some monochrome pictures, primarily late 19th century in origin. It contains extensive notes and bibliography.

Note: the cover disaplys a Victorian photograph of a semi-nude woman.

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