ABSTRACT

Eighteenth-century conceptualisations of identity provided women opportunities for creative and strategic self-fashioning. They could adopt several different polite identities and swap them flexibly in order to get personal freedom and power and to facilitate their navigation in the polite social world. Politeness thus offered women a chance for a plurality of the self. The self-conscious manner in which these different polite roles were adopted could even bear tones of camp-like theatricality and irony, thus revealing the artificiality of polite femininity.