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ELT: Volume 34:3, 1991 perception of the intrinsic possibilities for form in that existence, as well as a formal consciousness of life. As a vision of life and its possibilities, Renaissance art necessarily expresses an aesthetic ideal. That this ideal should consist of a vision embodied within the period defines in turn the unique form of Pater's work." And so on. Karl Beckson Brooklyn College, CUNY The New Woman Patricia Marks. Bicycles, Bangs, and Bloomers: The New Woman in the Popular Press. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1990. χ + 222 pp. $22.00 NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES can usefully be employed by scholars to illuminate cultural attitudes. Often they reflect the views of their readers and sometimes they help to shape them. They can differentiate class or gender perceptions, or national views. When visual evidence is used to supplement textual analysis as in the present book, the elements for a vivid social analysis are present. Bicycles, Bags, and Bloomers: The New Woman of the Popular Press, by Patricia Marks, would seem to possess all of these elements. Marks has a solid subject: the assertive, liberating "New Woman" of the later nineteenth century, thrust out of her "doll's house" into a world that was unreceptive to her presence. In the eyes of the popular press, she was ungainly and unfeminine: "sans love, sans charm, sans grace, sans everything," according to Punch, her most persistent critic among the satirical magazines. The visual reactions of this press to the New Woman were even less consoling to her. One illustration in the American magazine Life portrayed her as a dandified imbiber of alcohol who enjoyed watching male dancers perform in tutus. Another caricature, from the London journal Truth, showed her cavorting about in bloomers, "cloth knickers," and other examples of "Rational Dress." Much of this is fun, and some of it is enlightening as well. Feminism and popular journalism make for a suggestive compote because both are products of rapid social change. And Marks, who concentrates on humorous instances of journalism, has some perceptive things to say in her book. She is insightful about the complicated responses of this press to gender transformation (the "manly woman") and about how American feelings were more tolerant than those ex352 Book Reviews pressed in Britain. She is also correct to conclude that press reactions to the New Woman, even though predominantly negative, prepared the way for her acceptance by making the exotic familiar to a mass audience. Yet this book fails to generate much interest. Marks's approach is too mechanical. She divides her six chapters into facets of the New Woman: marriage, work, education, clubs, fashion, and athletics. Each unit is treated cursorily with the theme of emancipation being emphasized . She demonstrates that these six areas of change are emblematic of a larger trend towards self-expression (although it is doubtful that Queen Victoria herself typified the shadings of this development, as Marks contends). Marks treats the New Woman with sympathy, but in her pages she emerges as little more than a literary type, an artificial one at that. The contradictory forces tugging at her are occasionally well depicted, as in the chapter on fashion. But the New Woman of this book seems constricted by the literary sensibilities of writers like Shaw, Eliot, and Eliza Lynn Linton. At best, she appears as a stylistic variant of the "real woman" of the period. Marks's treatment of the popular press is in many ways even less satisfactory. What is the popular press? Who are its readers? Is its primary goal to make profits? Is it to shape or pander to attitudes? Such unanswered questions are not academic in a study that relies for its conclusions on the interaction between content and market. Marks's sampling techniques are suspect. Punch is central to this volume, presumably because of its reputation for visual caricature. Yet it is by no means "typical" of the journalism of the period. Even less sound is the constant reliance on Henry Labouchere's London periodical Truth for many insights. Truth was a foremost society journal. But it was less representative of the Victorian popular press in Britain than Vanity Fair, Edmund Yates's...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 352-353
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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