Beyond the Gibson Girl: Reimagining the American New Woman, by Martha H. Patterson

By Martha H. Patterson

Challenging monolithic photographs of the hot girl as white, well-educated, and politically innovative, this learn makes a speciality of very important nearby, ethnic, and sociopolitical changes within the use of the hot lady trope on the flip of the 20th century. utilizing Charles Dana Gibson's "Gibson women" as some degree of departure, Martha H. Patterson explores how writers similar to Pauline Hopkins, Margaret Murray Washington, Sui Sin a long way, Mary Johnston, Edith Wharton, Ellen Glasgow, and Willa Cather challenged and redeployed the hot girl snapshot in gentle of different "new" conceptions: the "New Negro Woman," the "New Ethics," the "New South," and the "New China."

As she seems to be in those writers' works, the recent lady either delivers and threatens to influence sociopolitical swap as a shopper, an instigator of evolutionary and monetary improvement, and, for writers of colour, an icon of winning assimilation into dominant Anglo-American tradition. analyzing a various array of cultural items, Patterson exhibits how the likely celebratory time period of the recent lady turns into a trope not just of revolutionary reform, shopper energy, transgressive femininity, smooth power, and glossy healing, but additionally of racial and ethnic taxonomies, social Darwinist fight, imperialist ambition, assimilationist pressures, and smooth decay.

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Devoted to the “new ethic” of quick marriages and easy divorces, flagrant money grubbing, and crass pleasure taking, she is both vibrant and empty, a product of her nouveau riche father’s ambition and her mother’s dullness. indd 23 8/8/05 10:33:44 AM 24 Introduction new species nominally independent and fiercely imitative, a species that thrives in the mutable marketplace and withers in the domestic sphere. As such, Undine does not simply represent Wharton’s anxieties about American culture’s moral decay but the need for a shift from an entrepreneurial to a corporate-capitalist ethic.

Cather too was anxious about electricity’s seemingly immoral force, but especially as it served as an expression of a kind of phallic commercialism. Her social protest story “Behind the Singer Tower” (1912) condemns inadequate fire-safety features for commercial buildings, the exploitation of immigrant laborers, and, most pointedly, the rapacious robber-baron spirit of the age. The narrator looks out “at the great incandescent signs along the Jersey shore, blazing across the night the names of beer and perfumes and corsets, .

Indd 27 9/1/05 8:50:31 AM 28 beyond the gibson girl in a sketch featuring a Gibson Girl judge and military leader. ” And in “Ho! ” Working as a self-professed artist, the New Woman might be found wanton and a traitor to the delicacies of her sex, or subject to the same criticism as the suffragette. Mary Austin’s A Woman of Genius (1912)—which celebrated Olivia Latimore’s rejection of “true woman” morality in favor of temperamental artistic genius, including a “new” ethic of individualism and sexual expression—apparently offended the wife of one of Austin’s publishers at Doubleday, and consequently the book received little endorsement (Austin, Earth 320).

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