The panel that I attended included presentations on Calamity Jane, the introduction of advisory labels on music, and Barbie as an icon. I found the presentation titled Barbie: Sex Toy to Controversial All-American Icon, which focused on Barbie in the 1960s and her influence on the American girl, the best. Of all three topics, the girl who presented this one clearly identified her thesis, hypothesis, three main points, background information, and sources in a lively manner that caught and held the audiences attention. Her three main points contributed to the idea that Barbie was a major influence on society and was often overlooked by historians. The girl argued that Barbie was a reflection of the trends and the controversies of the time, and provided such evidence as her symbol of the evolution of fashion, as well as her relation to eating disorders among young girls. She also discussed her careers, emphasizing women in the work-force as opposed to a housewife, and Barbie’s friends and family, specifically how the display of a support system made Barbie appear more alive, and thus, a greater influence on girls.
She also discussed the sources that were used, which, arguably, became one of the more interesting aspects of her presentation. I was not aware that there were magazines, commercials, and books published on Barbie in the 1960s. The magazine was probably the most interesting because it promoted domesticity by providing recipes for young girls and their mothers to use, as well as a how-to guide on how to play with Barbie. The books were also interesting because they gave Barbie a real life with real friends, and really helped to transform her from a doll into an actual person. All in all, I thought the girl had a great performance and appeared very convincing.
The research for my topic has continued to progress slowly. Both the question and hypothesis remain the same as of now, though I am sure they will continue to change slightly as I further my research. For the past few weeks I have focused on finding more primary documents from the French Court that highlighted Marie Antoinette. I have found a journal entitled Memoirs of Madame de La Tour du Pin, which was written by Henrietta-Lucy Dillon. Along with details of her life before and during the French Revolution, Madame de La Tour du Pin also mentions Marie Antoinette in regards to her unpopularity with the French Court. She does not refrain from making negative comments about the Queen either.
Though this memoir will help me in my paper, I really wanted to find primary sources from males in the French Court during this time. I found quite a few references to pamphlets that spoke harshly of Marie Antoinette, but have not yet located them. While searching for these, I stumbled upon an interesting memoir from the Count de Segur. I briefly looked through his account, The Memoirs and Anecdotes of the Count de Segur, and found that he became fairly close to the Queen. He is interesting because, from what I was able to read, he contradicts himself about his view of the Queen, portraying her as generous on one page, while degrading her as flighty on the next. His memoir will require further analysis and could possibly make a great addition to my paper.
Though my topic has not changed, my question and hypothesis have been altered slightly due to further research and consultation with Professor Harris. My question now asks whether Marie Antoinette actually behaved in such a frivolous, uncaring manner or if her image was distorted by historians who used the biased view started by the French court and continued by the revolutionaries during the French Revolution. My new hypothesis to this question is that it was the fear of foreigners, mixed with offense, as well as the notion that women should not be politically influential that led to the inaccurate portrayal of what I believe to be a generous, selfless woman.
The annotated bibliography really helped me to examine what other historians have said about my topic. So far, all the sources are fitting together perfectly, with the older, male historians displaying biased views of Marie Antoinette and the recent, usually female historians viewing her as the victim of men. This fits perfectly with my hypothesis. One of the sources I recently found, thanks to Professor Harris, was an article by Lynn Hunt that examines Marie Antoinette’s harsh image as a product of revolutionary thought at the time. Their belief was that women should not play a public or political role in society. I have already incorporated this important theory into my question and hypothesis. Hopefully, my research will continue to go as well as it has been.
The research that I have thus far been able to do has consisted solely of looking around the internet as I have not yet managed to find the time to get to the library. I have searched the library database and found twenty or so secondary sources that I will be looking at in the near future. Currently, I have been attempting to track down some primary sources and was able to find a few online. Specifically, I have been searching vigorously for letters written by Marie Antoinette. I have found her last letter before her death, but this does not help me since I would like to focus on the early part of her life.
Two primary sources I have found consist of letters that were written by men who knew Marie Antoinette. One of the sources contains letters written by Florimond, Comte de Mercy-Argenteau, who was the Austrian Ambassador to the Court of Versailles, as well as the guardian of Marie Antoinette. There are also a few letters in the book that were written from Marie Antoinette and her mother, Marie Thérèse. Many of the letters particularly pertain to my topic because they are written by the Comte de Mercy-Argenteau to Marie Thérèse about Marie Antoinette. These letters will help provide insight into Marie Antoinette’s daily life, an important aspect of my topic.
As for my question and hypothesis, both of them remain the same as of now. I will probably have to alter or completely change them as I do even more research, especially if I cannot find enough primary documents to support them. If so, I could probably switch my question and hypothesis to something that has to do with Marie Antoinette’s role in the French Revolution and the last few years before her death since many more primary documents seem to be focused on this.
For my paper topic, I would like to further investigate a certain aspect of Marie Antoinette’s life. I felt that Marie Antoinette, though a French queen, was still strongly connected to her Austrian ties. Therefore, I focused my topic to Marie Antoinette’s role in improving the influence Austria had in France. I narrowed this even further to look in particular at the first few years of her reign, which took place around 1775–1780. However, as I continued to research, I found that, though she was being pressured by her family, Marie Antoinette actually had little political influence over her husband, who was avidly anti-Austrian. In fact, as I continued to read, I began to generate a question: Did the pressure placed on her by her family to become involved in political affairs ultimately lead to the frivolous behavior and costly diversions she would later be well-known for? Or, was it the social rather than the political aspect that caused such a reaction?
I hypothesize that it was because of the amount of political responsibility Marie Antoinette was given, most likely from the very beginning, which caused her to find other means of escaping every day life. Going even further, I believe that it was the political burden that was to blame, at least partly, for the severe drop in Marie Antoinette’s popularity that occurred later in her life. In conclusion, my paper will defend Marie Antoinette as a woman who suffered from her political commitment to her family.