Contested Femininities: Representations of Modern Women in the German Illustrated Press, 1920–1945 Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Lynn, Jennifer M.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • Following World War I, the Neue Frau (New Woman) emerged as a mass-consumer image within the illustrated press and other forms of mass media including novels, movies and advertisements. However, this widely debated and enduring icon of Weimar Modernity was only one variant of a wide range of competing images of the Modern Woman in the Weimar Republic. Various groups modified and adapted the image of the Modern Woman according to their political and social goals. Thus far, most scholars have concentrated on the mass-consumer orientated image of the New Woman without acknowledging the tensions and contestation between the multiple versions of the Modern Woman in the broad and changing political spectrum of Weimar Germany. No study has examined the long-term changes and continuities, the ambiguities and paradoxes in the public discourse on the Modern Woman from the Weimar Republic through World War II. In this study, the concept of the Neue Frau defines the iconographical, commercialized representation of female modernity during the Weimar Republic, which has thus far been deemed the quintessential expression of modernity. However, the concept of the Modern Woman, in a broader context reveals that competing visual and textual interpretations of modernity were not only widespread in Weimar, but extended into the Third Reich. Focusing on visual images, and their relation to textual referents, illustrates how the meaning of modernity was flexible and dependent upon different visions of the future. This project explores the development of the visual and textual representations of the Modern Woman and their nuanced differences in a wide range of illustrated magazines produced between the 1920 and 1945. I question the relatively coherent depiction of the image of female modernity in most scholarship and argue that throughout the twentieth century images of the Modern Woman were highly disputed ambivalent because they were an important marker of the changing constructions of modernity. By concentrating on visual and textual representations, I reveal the ways in which visual, in combination with textual representations, played a significant role in imagining and negotiating the limits and possibilities for women in all aspects of society.
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  • Hagemann, Karen
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2012

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