Sorry, this episode is not currently available on BBC iPlayer Radio

In Hirsute of the Truth

In hirsute of the truth: hair can be a weapon with which to strangle your lover or a net in which to catch your crumbs. During the Victorian period, hair was a highly charged symbol of virility and an object of commerce. Changing hairstyles depict the changing power relationship between women and patriarchy. It has been fetishised, idolised and can be very useful if you're a cellist.

From the stories of Samson and Delilah and Rapunzel we see how hair - for centuries even - was considered a metaphor for virtue or righteousness: an idea especially evinced in the novels of Elizabeth Gaskell and George Eliot. Deryn Rees-Jones’s haunting poem ‘My Father’s Hair’ describes how her father’s identity developed during his life and how, at his life’s end, the ‘long white wings’ come to rest on the pillow of his sick bed.

Evil and violence pursue the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. First told in a Penny Dreadful of the 1840s, the story of Sweeney Todd inspired Stephen Sondheim’s Opera of the same name. It follows a long history of compositions which conjure images of death and destruction: from Robert Browning’s sinister ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ to Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Medusa’.

Producer: Gavin Heard

1 hour

Last on

Sun 17 Feb 2013 18:30

Discover Dylan Thomas

Dylan Thomas season

Explore the life, work and legacy of the Welsh poet on the centenary of his birth.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss