MSA Up-Close is a column we will run until the start of the MSA conference in order to give readers more information on periodical studies related panels at the 2010 conference. We will be posting paper descriptions, abstracts, and panel descriptions; please make comments and raise questions in the Comments section. Our fourth column features David Earle’s paper, “Beyond Flappers: Gun Molls, She-Gangsters, and the Modernist Feminine Subject,” which he will present as part of the Modernism and Popular Publishing panel.
“Beyond Flappers: Gun Molls, She-Gangsters, and the Modernist Feminine Subject,” 13 November 2010, 10:30am-12pm.
The 1920s flapper is often either lauded for her pursuit of sexual and economic equality, or demonized for her conspicuous consumption and, often, aspiration for matrimony. Whereas she was vilified in modernist texts such as Sanctuary and The Sun Also Rises, in popular and proletariat periodicals such as pulps and (surprisingly) women’s domestic magazines, she evolved into such female heroines as the female detective, the gun moll, the female gangster, and the girl reporter. This paper will examine the popularity of such strong female and proletariat figures in popular magazines as a means to a) illustrate a populist modernism that worked beyond traditional categories of consumption, gender, and genre, b) establish how in depression era America, such female figures blurred patriarchal lines between class and gender and right and wrong, and c) show how male modernists vilified such figures as a threat to the masculine cultural empowerment intrinsic to their agenda of high-brow reputation making.