Synopses & Reviews
In The Spectacular Modern Woman, Liz Conor illustrates how technological advances in image reproduction transformed Western industrial societies into visual or ""ocularcentric"" cultures with significant and complex consequences for women's lives. With the rise of mass media, photography, and movies, a woman's visibility became a mark of her modernity, and the result was at once liberating and confining, given the many narrow conceptions of what it meant to be a modern woman. Focusing on the city girl in the metropolitan scene, the ""Screen Struck Girl"" in the cinematic scene, the mannequin in the commodity scene, the beauty contestant in the photographic scene, the ""primitive"" woman in the late colonial scene, and the flapper in the heterosexual leisure scene, Conor shows how women's roles were intimately tied to the visual culture of the day.
""Providing an overview of the evolution of the modern woman who emergedin the 1920s, Conor (Univ. of Melbourne, Australia) shows that woman emerging fromunderneath clothing -- first her legs, then her hands, and finally her torso. Asmodern women moved into the city, these urbanized women became more of a spectaclebecause of the availability of varied clothing styles and makeup -- and imagesdesigned to make them want to purchase more feminine objects. These objects wouldallow them to cover and disguise unsightly and unpleasant female characteristics: menstruation, body hair, body odor. Not surprisingly, Conor focuses her discussionof colonialism on Australia, where Aboriginal women were considered less beautifulthan white women. She ends with a discussion of the flapper as the representation ofthe emancipated urban woman, an image that pervaded the 1920s and came to representthe Jazz Age. Conor points out that even when the time came for women to more towardreinvention on their own t