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Having It All in the Belle Epoque : How French Women's Magazines Invented the Modern Woman

ISBN: 9780804784245 | 0804784248
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Stanford Univ Pr
Pub. Date: 7/3/2013

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At once deeply historical and surprisingly timely, Having it All in the Belle Epoqueshows how the debates that continue to captivate high-achieving women in America and Europe can be traced back to the early 1900s in France. The first two photographic magazines aimed at women, Feminaand La Vie Heureusecreated a female role model whounlike the fear-inducing New Womancould balance age-old feminine convention with new equalities. Often referred to simply as the "modern woman," the feminine role model promoted in Feminaand La Vie Heureusewas a bundle of decidedly new contradictions, as she embraced a newfound sense of equality without completely abandoning conventional gender roles. Full of never before studied images of the modern French woman in actionfrom the adorably adventurous mountain climber, literally reaching new heights, to the multiple dazzling incarnations of the woman writer herself, gracefully balancing work and family, Having it Allshows how these early magazines exploited new photographic technologies, artistic currents, and literary trends to offer a powerful new model of French femininityone that has exerted a lasting, if rarely recognized, influence on French expression. The book introduces and explores the concept of Belle Epoque literary feminism, a product of the elite literary and artistic milieu from which the magazines emerged. Defined by its refusal of political engagement, this feminism was nevertheless preoccupied with expanding women's roles through the journalism and fiction, which worked to construct a collective fantasy of female achievement. Having it Allconsiders this fantasy's refraction through popular women's fiction and explores the limits of this alternative feminism beyond the devoted readership of the women's press. Through an astute blend of historical research, literary criticism, and visual analysis, Mesch offers an original window onto a bygone era that can serve as a framework for ongoing debates about feminism, femininity, and work-life tensions.


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