Women, Celebrity, and Literary Culture between the Wars

9780292726062: Paperback
Release Date: 18th August 2010

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 271

Series Literary Modernism

University of Texas Press

Women, Celebrity, and Literary Culture between the Wars

Paperback / £20.99

As mass media burgeoned in the years between the first and second world wars, so did another phenomenon—celebrity. Beginning in Hollywood with the studio-orchestrated transformation of uncredited actors into brand-name stars, celebrity also spread to writers, whose personal appearances and private lives came to fascinate readers as much as their work. Women, Celebrity, and Literary Culture between the Wars profiles seven American, Canadian, and British women writers—Dorothy Parker, Anita Loos, Mae West, L. M. Montgomery, Margaret Kennedy, Stella Gibbons, and E. M. Delafield—who achieved literary celebrity in the 1920s and 1930s and whose work remains popular even today.

Faye Hammill investigates how the fame and commercial success of these writers—as well as their gender—affected the literary reception of their work. She explores how women writers sought to fashion their own celebrity images through various kinds of public performance and how the media appropriated these writers for particular cultural discourses. She also reassesses the relationship between celebrity culture and literary culture, demonstrating how the commercial success of these writers caused literary elites to denigrate their writing as "middlebrow," despite the fact that their work often challenged middle-class ideals of marriage, home, and family and complicated class categories and lines of social discrimination.

The first comparative study of North American and British literary celebrity, Women, Celebrity, and Literary Culture between the Wars offers a nuanced appreciation of the middlebrow in relation to modernism and popular culture.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. "How to tell the difference between a Matisse painting and a Spanish omelette": Dorothy Parker, Vogue, and Vanity Fair
  • 2. "Brains are really everything": Anita Loos's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
  • 3. "A plumber's idea of Cleopatra": Mae West as Author
  • 4. "Astronomers located her in the latitude of Prince Edward Island": L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables, and Early Hollywood
  • 5. "The best product of this century": Margaret Kennedy's The Constant Nymph
  • 6. "Literature or just sheer flapdoodle?": Stella Gibbons's Cold Comfort Farm
  • 7. "Wildest hopes exceeded": E. M. Delafield's Diary of a Provincial Lady
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Faye Hammill is a senior lecturer in English at Cardiff University in Wales.