Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Questions, Secondary Reading, and Early Thoughts

Now that Christmas and the "Blizzard of 2010" are over, onward to the library! I've started the formidable task of reading as much secondary literature as possible before going to Berlin to explore the subject of representations of women in Weimar visual culture. My plan is currently to begin at the Humboldt University library reading the women's fashion magazine Die Dame, but secondary reading I do might point me in a different direction.

A set of fundamental and very broad questions is guiding my research: What representations of women appeared in Weimar visual culture and to whom were these images marketed? What relationships developed between notions of femininity and modernity, the status of women, and representations of women in popular media? More generally, what trends in Weimar culture indicated changing ideas about women and how did those trends conflict with or coincide with political trends leading into the early 1930s?

Starting with Die Dame, I hope to pinpoint specific instances of visual culture in the Weimar Republic that can provide more nuanced answers to the general questions above.

So far I have read from a small selection of books and articles related to my research interests:

Frevert, Ute. Women in German History: From Bourgeois Emancipation to Sexual Liberation. Translated by Stuart McKinnon-Evans. Oxford: Berg, 1989.

Frevert's book on German women's history is frequently cited in other works on women in the Weimar Republic, and provides an important background and analysis of women throughout German history. Part of what I am most interested in studying is the relationship between different representations of women as they corresponded to differing opinions among women of their own role in society in the inter-war period. Frevert's examination of women in Germany and their organizations provides background for a closer look at relationships between women's movements and various representations of women in visual culture aimed at men and women.

Kosta, Barbara. "Cigarettes, Advertising, and the Weimar Republic's Modern Woman." In Visual Culture in Twentieth-Century Germany: Text as Spectacle, edited by Gail Finney, 134-153. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006.

Kosta's article discusses a specific set of advertisements from Die Dame during the 1920s. She argues that cigarettes were a symbol of power and independence for women, but that advertisements also "function[ed] as a mirror of identity, fragmenting images into diverse fantasies of the self" (141). Kosta offers an important distinction between images of cigarette-smoking women in media marketed to men (the "Vamp" figure in many movies smoked a cigarette and had the power to seduce and mislead men) and those marketed to women (advertisements in Die Dame showed strong, independent women with a touch of orientalism; these women knew how to enjoy the luxury of a good cigarette). The female smoker, Kosta explains, represents both the "symbolic power" of the cigarette and a level of exotic luxury that is both "threatening" and "voyeuristically exciting" to men. Advertisements capture all of these elements while maintaining their function of creating "diverse fantasies of the self."

As I move forward with my research, I plan to look for more images of the "New Woman" in German media and examine reactions to those images as they coincide with reactions to modernity in general.

Next up: "Gretchen, Girl, Garçonne? Weimar Science and Popular Culture in Search of the Ideal New Woman" by Lynne Frame and Joyless Streets by Patrice Petro

1 comment:

  1. just read the following and thought you might like it:

    "die modernen Frauenzeitschriften, die sich darauf spezialisieren, die sogenannten inneren Stimmen der Leserinnen einzufangen" (Peter Sloterdijk, Sphären III: Schäume, [Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2004!!!!!!] S. 379).

    We can talk about its massively problematic logic later.