Junger on young american man
Dear Richard, I'd like to thank you very much for this presentation, perfect in its presentation and with really interesting visual material. As a hispanist, it was especially interesting for me to see that the "splendid little war" 1898 was a turning point in the visual stereotyping of american masculinity - in Spain it was the beginning of a broad discours on cultural decadence and loss of imperial power that was gendered as effemination.
Thanks for a great presentation. The covers are amazing. I was interested in your references to social darwinism, which had a strong impact on China as well in this period, and inspired discussions about physical culture and physical education, for both men and women. For an example of how physical culture for women was visualized (and mixed with elements of eroticism and voyeurism), see http://visualizingmodernchina.org/content/chapter-6/ .
Sending regards from South Bend to Kalamazoo.
Thank you for the fantastic presentation. The covers you show are amazing. I have two questions for you:
- Do you know what was the role of editors in this visual history of masculinity? Did illustrators choose their topics, or did editors tell them what sort of cover they wanted? Did illustrators and editors exchange about those covers and did they comment on the issue of masculinity or the importance of physical culture? I guess it must be different depending on the magazine you are talking about but if you have some examples, I would love to read about them.
- The 1918 Spanish flu took a deadly on young men. Have you come across any references to that in US magazines? Maybe not on covers but in other parts of the magazine…
Thanks again for the great presentation and for your time.
my congrats, from my point of view a best practice analysis of magazine illustrations w/ regard to a particular topic.
My question would be: Can you put the male depictions you showed in a numeric relation to covers with female figures? Were coverboys as common as covergirls in this period? I am asking because in Germany we observe a strong emphasis on female persons on the covers (if they are illustrated at all), independent from the genre of the magazine.
Stay healthy -
Many thanks for your kind words. I was not aware of the situation in China, although the longer I do history the more I realize that one country, or one region, is not an island by itself. Cultural influences penetrate borders that the physical can not (immigration restrictions). My reference point to much of early 20th century China is "The Last Emperor," which I hope isn't totally false. I will look into your reference more. And my best regards to South Bend. I need not spell Kalamazoo for you.
I love your question, the age-old "does the mirror create or reflect the image?" I think we can agree that it is both. Editors and publishers wanted to sell magazines, illustrators had creative ideas of their own, and readers wanted covers that interested them. I took the position in my presentation that the covers I showed reflected culture but also tugged at it to re-frame and re-think norms. Better-known name illustrators had more freedom to push boundaries, like JC Leyendecker, but he was still an illustrator, not an "artist," and he had to make a buck. An interesting question that I never thought of at the time is whether magazines sought to back-pedal the Spanish flu pandemic by making their male covers more vibrant and resilient. But who would have thought that even a month ago? Will do that in my future research however. Thanks for the suggestions and kind words.
Thank you for the encouraging words. I don't have an exact percentage, but it was very, very hard finding enough American male magazine covers to make a meaningful presentation. I've been at this for awhile, and the only reason I could come up with enough now is the increasing number of on-line magazine archives. It would have been very costly to do my presentation even 10 years ago, traveling to various archives. And many 19-20 century American librarians discarded the front covers and advertising materials in magazines before they had them bound to save money, which makes the search even more difficult. Maybe as more titles go online, and as copyrights expire, someone could come up with a number. I noticed all of the women in your presentation. Dare we say that many magazine readers in the Western world prefer women to men? Is that still true today?
Thank you so much for a wonderful talk. It made me think that we should be discussing a turn of the century "new man" along side the "new woman" (and thinking about the gender implications of both of these figures). This approach of reading solely the magazines' covers seems really meaningful to me, as these reach so many more eyes than simply subscribers.
Thanks for your answer. I agree with you: the mirror creates and reflects the image, as you put it. And about the Spanish flu epidemic, yes, who would have thought that even a month ago? But that's the first thing that came to mind when I was listening to you talk about male covers at the end of the war.
Thanks again for the presentation. I really enjoyed your approach and all the covers. As Nissa wrote, covers “reach many more eyes than simply subscribers,” and that’s why it makes them so important to understand cultural shifts. It was also thought-provoking to read that you had a hard time finding enough male magazine covers. I would be interested to read a recent study of masculinity in American magazines, not just covers. Ellen Garvey, Matthew Schneirov and Richard Ohmann have all discussed gender issues. Do you know anything more recent? And do you know if somebody analyzed American female magazine covers the way you did with male covers?
Have a nice week-end,
Dear Richard, many thanks for this great talk. I am interested in the connection between the depiction of men on the magazines's covers and the representation of men in the articles inside the magazines. Do you know whether the texts inside the magazines demonstrate the same turn towards a more aggressive masculinity as do the covers or do they promote another, less aggressive form of masculinity?
In addition, I am also interested in transnational connections. Did you look at magazines from other countries as well, such as Britain or Canada, and, if so, do they demonstrate a similar form of aggressive masculinity?
Alexandra: Thank you for your message and thoughts. The funny thing about early twentieth-century magazines in my experiences is that the contents, very often, didn't always have a lot to do with their editor and publisher. True, they selected the articles that appeared, and some editors wrote their own columns, but the articles most often were reflections of their authors, not necessarily the magazines. However, the front covers were always chosen near publication deadline by the editor and/or publisher and very much reflected their tastes and interests. After all, they had their name on the same front covers.
So the individual issues with men on the covers that I looked usually had few if any articles about men inside. In all likelihood, the authors had no idea there would be a man on the front. In fact, if I had to take a position, I would say that the covers set a tone that might be reflected in future issues as perspective authors read and digested them, always ahead of the curve.
Was there aggressive masculinity in the inside pages of American magazines during WWI? Not really, because most authors were still coming to grips with the war, almost like the situation for journalists and writers today with the Covid virus. Who knew three months ago that things would be like they are now? There was a lot of written "jingoism" about aggressive American militarism in early and mid-1920s culture, well after the war was over, but not so much during the war. Who knew what to expect?
My intention is to look at magazine covers from other nations in my forthcoming efforts, in particular Canada since I live very close to the border. My university has database access to American periodicals, not so much foreign. Maybe I can work something out with a Canadian or UK university to broaden my access, but I do believe in transnationalism, especially when it comes to ideas.
Again, thank you for your message. I can't help but notice the cold weather clothing in your avatar. It is snowing here in Michigan, USA today. You would feel quite comfortable here.
Dear Richard, many thanks for this stunning presentation (I envy your students!). Your insightful reading of these covers brings to bear on the (fantasized) construction of the American body as youthful, energetic, independent, and… female, in France and across French magazines at the same period of time (1880-1920). In terms of methodology, your paper seems to me to amply demonstrate that whatever accessibility we may have to digitized resources, only expertise and meticulous recontextualizing can allow an effective transnational approach to the topic of the shifting international configurations in construction of “America”. Greetings from Provence to Michigan!