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

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Having it All in the Belle Epoque: How French Women's Magazines Invented the Modern Woman
Rachel Mesch, "Having it All in the Belle Epoque: How French Women's Magazines Invented the Modern Woman"
2013 | ISBN-10: 0804784248 | 256 pages | PDF | 175 MB

At once deeply historical and surprisingly timely, Having it All in the Belle Epoque shows 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, Femina and La Vie Heureuse created a female role model who--unlike the fear-inducing New Woman--could balance age-old feminine convention with new equalities. Often referred to simply as the "modern woman," the feminine role model promoted in Femina and La Vie Heureuse was 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 action--from 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 All shows how these early magazines exploited new photographic technologies, artistic currents, and literary trends to offer a powerful new model of French femininity--one that has exerted a lasting, if rarely recognised, 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 All considers 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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