WGS 393 • Weimer Culture: New Woman and New Man
This particular course will focus on the myths of the New Woman and the New Man and the underlying struggle over gendered notions of identity and subjectivity. With her bobbed hair, short skirts, and androgynous look, the New Woman of the 1920s became a ubiquitous symbol of female emancipation and a liberated sexuality. Likewise, the New Man personified a modern masculinity tested in the steel baths of World War One and the body regimes of the rationalized workplace. Together, both figures play a key role in the emergence of gender as a central category of mass culture and modernity, embodying progress as well as degeneration, self-realization as well as self-oppression. We will look at the iconography of the New Woman and the New Man in literature, film, photography, and painting; consider the implications of modern femininity and masculinity for Weimar discourses on homosexuality and reproductive rights; address the transformation of cultural life through the provocation of female authors and female authorship; discuss the cult of the modern body in relation to Girlkultur, youth culture, and sport culture; assess the gendered manifestations of cynicism, resentment, resignation, fun, and other "typical" Weimar mentalities; and examine the function of the gendered discourses of modernity within the larger debates on Americanism and German national identity. The course will be conducted in English and German, with lectures in English and discussions in German and English. The majority of films have English subtitles; most of the readings are in German.