Prof. Vanessa Rocco recently received a Pratt Faculty Development award in recognition of her work on the book The New Woman International: Representations in Photography and Film from the 1870s through 1960s. The book is co-edited by Elizabeth Otto, with a Foreword by Linda Nochlin, and will be published by The University of Michigan Press in February 2011. Prof. Rocco provided the following summary of the work:
During the later part of the nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth, a range of iconic female forms emerged to dominate the global pictorial landscape. Chorine stars, female athletes and adventurers, flappers, garçonnes, Modern Girls, neue Frauen, suffragettes, and trampky were all facets of the dazzling and urbane New Woman who came to epitomize modern femininity. This construct existed as both a set of abstract ideas and ideals as well as a compilation of individual behaviors and experiences; these varied as they were translated across national contexts and through a range of key historical moments including First Wave feminism, colonialism, the First and Second World Wars, political revolutions, and the rise of modernism. While this incarnation of modern femininity set the trends for women worldwide, she often stood accused of dangerously subverting gender norms and encouraging lesbianism, mannishness, and other forms of deviance. Indeed the New Woman seemed to be such a universally recognizable icon of change that she could instantly inspire and simultaneously incite strong reactions of fear or even hatred.
Inaugurating a new chapter in the scholarship on the New Woman, this edited volume moves beyond nationally and historically focused narratives to examine the nuances of visual representations of this transgressive and border-crossing figure from her inception in the later nineteenth century to her full development in the interwar period and beyond. Bringing together generations of scholars of gender and visual culture—including professors of art history, film, and visual studies, as well as museum curators—The New Woman International addresses the ways in which these types figured in discourses on gender, race, technology, sexuality, agency, media representation, commercial culture, internationalism, colonialism, and transnational modernity. Sweeping in scope, through its focus on the modern media of film and photography—including photojournalism, artists’ photography, and photomontage—the volume zooms in on the primary loci through which New-Woman figures were created and defined. Further, by concentrating on photography and film, this book looks at women both before and behind the camera to reveal them as agents in constructing the New Woman as a creative avatar of change. Through this rich array of original scholarship, The New Woman International will become the standard work on the representation of this figure who challenged, confronted, and forever changed norms of gender.