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The New Woman International

Representations in Photography and Film from the 1870s through the 1960s
Elizabeth Otto and Vanessa Rocco, editors
Foreword by Linda Nochlin
An international picture of New Woman in film and photography


Images of flappers, garçonnes, Modern Girls, neue Frauen, and trampky—all embodiments of the dashing New Woman—symbolized an expanded public role for women from the suffragist era through the dawn of 1960s feminism. Chronicling nearly a century of global challenges to gender norms, The New Woman International: Representations in Photography and Film from the 1870s through the 1960s is the first book to examine modern femininity's ongoing relationship with the nineteenth and twentieth centuries' most influential new media: photography and film. This volume examines the ways in which novel ideas about women's roles in society and politics were disseminated through these technological media, and it probes the significance of radical changes in female fashion, appearance, and sexual identity. Additionally, these original essays explore the manner in which New Women artists used photography and film to respond creatively to gendered stereotypes and to reconceive of ways of being a woman in a rapidly modernizing world.

The New Woman International brings together different generations of scholars and curators who are experts in gender, photography, literature, mass media, and film to analyze the New Woman from her inception in the later nineteenth century through her full development in the interwar period, and the expansion of her forms in subsequent decades. Arranged both chronologically and thematically, these essays show how controversial female ideals figured in discourses including those on gender norms, race, technology, sexuality, female agency, science, media representation, modernism, commercial culture, internationalism, colonialism, and transnational modernity. In exploring these topics through images that range from montages to newspapers' halftone prints to film stills, this book investigates the terms of gendered representation as a process in which women were as much agents as allegories. Inaugurating a new chapter in the scholarship of representation and New Womanhood and spanning North America, Western and Eastern Europe, Asia, and the colonial contexts of Africa and the Pacific, this volume reveals the ways in which a feminine ideal circled the globe to be translated into numerous visual languages.

With a foreword from the eminent feminist art historian Linda Nochlin, this collection includes contributions by Jan Bardsley, Matthew Biro, Gianna Carotenuto, Melody Davis, Kristine Harris, Karla Huebner, Kristen Lubben, Maria Makela, Elizabeth Otto, Martha H. Patterson, Vanessa Rocco, Clare I. Rogan, Despina Stratigakos, Brett M. Van Hoesen, Kathleen M. Vernon, and Lisa Jaye Young.

"In The New Woman International, editors Elizabeth Otto and Vanessa Rocco have gathered a group of intellectually stimulating and provocative essays that present the emergence, both tentative and triumphant, of this new global icon and her increasingly multicultural image. Written largely by historians of art and film, these essays emphasize visual analysis of the photographic and film media that carried the new woman's influential message."
—Norma Broude, American University

"The New Woman International focuses on the New Woman not simply as an image to be analyzed but also as a producer of images and text. This groundbreaking anthology represents a theoretically sophisticated set of essays that thoroughly examine the phenomenon of the New Woman in previously unexplored ways."
—Sarah E. Chinn, Hunter College, CUNY

Cover illustration: Germaine Krull, Self-Portrait, 1925. Gelatin silver print 20.5 × 15.1 cm. Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, Foundation Ann and Jürgen Wilde © Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany.

Elizabeth Otto is Associate Professor in the Department of Visual Studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Vanessa Rocco is Assistant Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art History at Southern New Hampshire University, Manchester.

Praise / Awards

  • "The New Woman International reveals the complicated web of intentions, receptions, and conditions of women around the world as formulated by emergent reproductive technology."
    Brooklyn Rail

  • "This book is particularly relevant in this current era, in which it is more important than ever for us to be adept at analyzing messages in visual media.  This is a necessary and potent text for anyone interested in visual culture and feminism."
     —International Center for Photography

  • "The New Woman International delivers an exciting, fresh, and diverse examination of the imagery, consumer culture, metropolitan life, and technology that gave rise to startlingly innovative feminine symbols that changed gender norms."

  • "For readers interested in feminist modernism and popular culture, the editors have assembled truly stellar examples of new methodologies in book history, periodical studies, global modernisms, film studies and multimedia studies."
    The Latchkey Journal of New Woman Studies

  • "The New Woman International has accomplished an enviable level of coherence, organization, and balance. It covers a broad geographic and historical range while maintaining a tight thematic and theoretical focus; it encompasses diverse scholarly approaches and manages to bring them into a coherent and meaningful conversation with each other; and finally, it succeeds in producing a true interdisciplinary polyphony, without losing sight of the unifying subject of study: the role of the New Woman in the technology-based visual arts of film and photography. It is not difficult to imagine that all of the contributions to this volume, including the excellent introductory essay, could become required reading for students in a variety of disciplines: the visual arts, German studies, and women’s studies."
    German Studies Review

  • "In addition to its significance to scholars, the interdisciplinary nature of this collection recommends it as an excellent reader for courses covering nineteenth- and twentieth-century photography, mass media, and, above all, feminist history." —Woman's Art Journal
  • "[The New Woman International] shows why visual autonomy was so important to women’s political and domestic emancipation, and it contributes to the recent project to draw out transnational linkages between these syndicated modern feminine types with much detail, diversity, and applied creative analysis."

Look Inside

Copyright © 2011, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

News, Reviews, Interviews

Watch: Video | Panel discussion at Barnard College | 3/28/11

Read: Award | Elizabeth Otto awarded SUNY Conversations in the Discipline grant | 6/1/11

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 364pp.
  • 92 B&W photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2011
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-07104-3

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  • $89.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2012
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-05104-5

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  • $37.95 U.S.

  • Open Access
  • 2011
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-90036-7

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