Archetypal Symbology in “Fifine at the Fair”
Hankamer Treasure Room • Armstrong Browning Library
August 17, 2022 – December 31, 2022
An exhibit curated by Katrina L. Gallegos
M.A. Candidate Department of Museum Studies
The Victorians are remembered for being conservative, in their dress, their customs, and their culture. Therefore, it is surprising to see provocative subjects explored in Victorian art, literature, and poetry. They explored topics such as desire, infidelity, gender, and sexuality. They used their art as an expressive outlet in response to a restrictive society.
Because of the conservative nature of the dominant social culture authors and artists used coded language to express their inner desires, thoughts, emotions. This coded language often employed classical symbols from Roman and Greek antiquity. They also used this language to prove their intellectual prowess among their peers. For modern readers and viewers these examples may not seem provocative because the authors and artists used complicated language and obscure references. Some memorable authors and artists who were provocative are Robert Browning, Gabriel Dante Rossetti, Lord Byron, and Julia Margaret Cameron.
This exhibition decodes the complex language found in Robert Browning’s poem, “Fifine at the Fair”. Specifically, examining themes of sexuality, desire, the male gaze, and social class on the poem’s 150th anniversary.