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The Workshop in the History of Material Texts

Jean Lee Cole (Loyola University Maryland): “Repulsive Women: Djuna Barnes and others in the American periodical press, 1900-1915”

Front cover of a comic by Djuna Barnes

Monday, February 8, 5:15pm, via Zoom

Our speaker writes:
The work of Djuna Barnes combines radical experimentation in diction, literary genres and periods, and poetic forms, with commercial art, fashion, and journalism. Yet Barnes was not singular in combining these different media and modes. If anything, Barnes’s engagement with the early-twentieth century cultural scene—as seen in The Book of Repulsive Women (1915) and the illustrations and journalism of her pre-Paris years—is modeled on other enterprising women artists who emerged during the first decade of the twentieth century, including Grace Gebbie Wiederseim, creator of the Sunday comic strips Naughty Toodles (1902) and Pussy Pumpkin (1903-1904) and the Campbell Soup Kids; Marjorie Organ, painter and staff comic-strip artist at William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal (1902-1905) and Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World (1908); and especially, Kate Carew, who created the comic strip Angel Child (1902-1905) and as a caricaturist, celebrity interviewer, and journalist, likely provided a direct model for Barnes’s early work for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (1913). Taken together, the works of these early female comics artists lay the groundwork for Barnes’s depictions of the grotesque transformations of female bodies that were seemingly required by patriarchal modernity. Contextualizing them within the development of what Lisa Mendelman calls a “modern sentimentalism” gives us a new way to understand these female comic-strip artists, not as individual women within a male-dominated field, but rather, as a group of women negotiating the larger cultural space of modernity itself.

About our speaker:
Jean Lee Cole is Professor of English at Loyola University Maryland, where she teaches courses in American literature from the nineteenth century to the present. She is most recently the author of How the Other Half Laughs: The Comic Sensibility in American Culture, 1895-1920 (Mississippi, 2020); she also has edited or co-edited several volumes, including Freedom’s Witness: The Civil War Correspondence of Henry McNeal Turner (West Virginia, 2013) and (with Charles Mitchell) Zora Neale Hurston: Collected Plays (Rutgers, 2008). She has just stepped down from the editorship of the journal American Periodicals.

We are virtual for spring 2021! All are welcome. If you would like to receive details on how to attend upcoming Zoom meetings, please sign up for our listserv using this link or visit the Workshop website.

The Workshop in the History of Material Texts is supported by the School of Arts and Sciences through the Department of English and hosted by the Penn Libraries. The co-directors of the seminar are Professor Zachary Lesser (English), Jerry Singerman (Penn Press), and John Pollack (Kislak Center, Penn Libraries).

Associated with the workshop is the book series in Material Texts published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, which includes many monographs that have emerged from presentations given at the workshop over the years.

For more information, please contact Philip Mogen.

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