We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE
OR

Women, Celebrity, and Literary Culture between the Wars

By Faye Hammill

Publication Year: 2007

As mass media burgeoned in the years between the first and second world wars, so did another phenomenon—celebrity. Beginning in Hollywood with the studio-orchestrated transformation of uncredited actors into brand-name stars, celebrity also spread to writers, whose personal appearances and private lives came to fascinate readers as much as their work. Women, Celebrity, and Literary Culture between the Wars profiles seven American, Canadian, and British women writers—Dorothy Parker, Anita Loos, Mae West, L. M. Montgomery, Margaret Kennedy, Stella Gibbons, and E. M. Delafield—who achieved literary celebrity in the 1920s and 1930s and whose work remains popular even today. Faye Hammill investigates how the fame and commercial success of these writers—as well as their gender—affected the literary reception of their work. She explores how women writers sought to fashion their own celebrity images through various kinds of public performance and how the media appropriated these writers for particular cultural discourses. She also reassesses the relationship between celebrity culture and literary culture, demonstrating how the commercial success of these writers caused literary elites to denigrate their writing as “middlebrow,” despite the fact that their work often challenged middle-class ideals of marriage, home, and family and complicated class categories and lines of social discrimination. The first comparative study of North American and British literary celebrity, Women, Celebrity, and Literary Culture between the Wars offers a nuanced appreciation of the middlebrow in relation to modernism and popular culture.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (75.6 KB)
pp. iii-iv

Contents

pdf iconDownload PDF (59.9 KB)
pp. v-

read more

Acknowledgments

pdf iconDownload PDF (83.7 KB)
pp. vii-viii

I am grateful in particular to Professor Phyllis Lassner for her detailed, encouraging, and immensely helpful comments on the draft of this book. I am also very grateful to several friends and colleagues: Rob Gossedge, Dr. Mary Grover, Dr. Louise Harrington, Dr. Anouk Lang, Professor Rick Rylance, and Dr. Keir Waddington, for reading...

read more

Introduction

pdf iconDownload PDF (229.9 KB)
pp. 1-26

Literary celebrity, in this account, is part of the "hubbub" of everyday life, yet it also gives access to a "magical world." The celebrity author is magnified, elevated above ordinary mortals. At the same time, she is incorporated into the bewildering modern city, and cannot take refuge from the public, even in her bedroom. Simply by her known presence, she contributes to the chaos, but it is her name and not herself which...

read more

1. "How to tell the difference between a Matisse painting and a Spanish omelette": Dorothy Parker, Vogue, and Vanity Fair

pdf iconDownload PDF (258.4 KB)
pp. 27-54

The Dorothy Parker persona has come down to us not only through her own writing but via biography, scholarship, film, memoir, and popular nostalgia for the 1920s. The creation of Dorothy Parker as celebrity was begun through her own cultivation of an identifiable style, by means of her journalism and her social image, especially her highly publicized association with the Algonquin Round Table. But...

read more

2. "Brains are really everything": Anita Loos's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

pdf iconDownload PDF (214.1 KB)
pp. 55-75

Anita Loos's writing, like Dorothy Parker's, was shaped by the discourses of sophistication and cosmopolitanism, which were me- diated by magazines such as Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Harper's Bazar,1 and The Smart Set. Her best-selling novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1925) was initially serialized in Harper's Bazar; when it appeared in volume form, its astonishing sales made Loos a millionaire...

read more

3. "A plumber's idea of Cleopatra": Mae West as Author

pdf iconDownload PDF (223.0 KB)
pp. 76-99

It is something of a surprise to find Anita Loos describing herself as starstruck: after all, from the beginning of her career, she had associated with a whole procession of celebrities, from D. W. Griffith to Marion Davies, Margot Asquith to Scott Fitzgerald. The extent of Mae West's fame in 1936 can certainly be measured by Loos's unwonted excitement. Loos, though, deliberately emphasizes her inflated expectation...

read more

4. "Astronomers located her in the latitude of Prince Edward Island": L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables, and Early Hollywood

pdf iconDownload PDF (235.4 KB)
pp. 100-123

Lucy Maud Montgomery is the only author considered in this study who can be compared to Mae West in terms of her impact on popular culture. Her first novel, Anne of Green Gables (1908), became an international best seller and spawned seven sequels, numerous screen adaptations, a series of spin-off products, and an entire tourist industry in Prince Edward Island. In their book on Canadian popular...

read more

5. "The best product of this century": Margaret Kennedy's The Constant Nymph

pdf iconDownload PDF (266.7 KB)
pp. 124-151

Among the novels discussed in this study, Anne of Green Gables and The Constant Nymph (1924) are the most romantic in their vision. Kennedy, like Montgomery, places much emphasis on imagination and creativity, imbues her texts with literary allusiveness (particularly in reference to Shakespeare), and creates a pastoral idyll. But the romantic qualities are not straightforward. Both authors undercut...

read more

6. "Literature or just sheer flapdoodle?": Stella Gibbons's Cold Comfort Farm

pdf iconDownload PDF (254.3 KB)
pp. 152-178

The narrative modes of Cold Comfort Farm and The Constant Nymph contrast strikingly, yet the two books have important similarities. Like Margaret Kennedy's Florence, Stella Gibbons's protagonist, Flora, is a confident but somewhat officious young woman, committed to ideals of civilization, good manners, pleasant domestic surroundings, and the moral benefits of culture. Both narratives are structured...

read more

7. "Wildest hopes exceeded": E. M. Delafield's Diary of a Provincial Lady

pdf iconDownload PDF (264.7 KB)
pp. 179-206

In February 1931, E. M. Delafield published the first installment of a series called "Women in Fiction" in Time and Tide. It identified the types of women likely to feature in "the dialect novel": The malignant grandmother [. . .] dominates the book, and all the people in it, and the destinies of every one of them, and is almost al- ways the victim of a disease, or at least a disability, that keeps her in...

read more

Conclusion

pdf iconDownload PDF (98.6 KB)
pp. 207-212

In 2002 and 2004, the BBC series Before the Booker asked which novels would have won the Booker prize if it had existed before 1969. Each program focused on one particular year, ranging from 1818 to 1966, identifying four contenders for each supposed prize. American authors were permitted, although they would not have been eligible for the real Booker prize. The books selected for 1925 were...

Notes

pdf iconDownload PDF (221.3 KB)
pp. 213-231

Bibliography

pdf iconDownload PDF (209.0 KB)
pp. 233-249

Index

pdf iconDownload PDF (137.2 KB)
pp. 251-261


E-ISBN-13: 9780292794870
E-ISBN-10: 0292794878
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292716445
Print-ISBN-10: 0292716443

Page Count: 271
Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: Literary Modernism Series

Research Areas

Recommend

UPCC logo

Subject Headings

  • American literature -- Women authors -- History and criticism.
  • English literature -- Women authors -- History and criticism.
  • Women and literature -- History -- 20th century.
  • Women authors, American -- 20th century -- Biography.
  • Women authors, English -- 20th century -- Biography.
  • Fame -- Economic aspects -- History -- 20th century.
  • Authorship -- Economic aspects -- History -- 20th century.
  • Authors and readers -- History -- 20th century.
  • Popular culture -- History -- 20th century.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access