reading about travel
Victoria/Susann - fabulous talk: I loved it. I am struck by so many of your points: one that jumped out was that "Reading about travel was presented as a form of geo-political engagement." That is an insight that many of us could use I think.
I was asked a question re my own talk about single women travellers, and was expecting to find an answer in yours. The example of Margaret Preston's "There and Back in Three Months" is perfect. That is a very ambitious trip for a woman in 1926, isn't it? Did I understand right that she travelled by herself? I love that the piece picks up on 'Gentlemen Prefer Blondes' with that strapline "The Pacific is Devine" - presumably there is an implication that Preston is a far more discerning traveller than Lorelei, and does not seek an experience of globalised, homogenous luxury, but rather seeks to appreciate the cultural distinctiveness of all the places she visits?
A different point, but also about gender: how intriguing that Man sold so much better than The Home. There is a comparison to be made here with Esquire (which you mentioned) and how it sold a lot more copies than Vogue ever did. It does help us to refute the idea that mainstream or glossy magazines are the preserve of women readers, doesn't it? I thought your account of Man in relation to those modes of 'geo-political engagement' was very helpful. Thanks!
Thanks for your insightful comments, Faye. Margaret Preston's contributions to The Home are remarkable, and well worth looking at now that The Home has been digitised by Trove and is searchable on the catalogue of The National Library of Australia: https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-362409353
Preston is THE impresario of Australian modernist art, and having her semi-regular essays and other contributions in the magazine certainly lent the magazine status, and gestured toward her as a modern Australian taste-maker for readers of such middlebrow magazines who were well-to-do, in-the-know, or aspired to be. Preston was indeed well-traveled, but in the contributions to the magazine, which we have read carefully, it is just barely possible to detect that on the journey she chronicles here she was traveling with her husband. We think it's noteworthy that she doesn't name him, and that the piece does read as if she was traveling by herself. This lends the impression that her travels are particularly daring, and modern, and as a modern woman that she is independent, agentic, and self-directed. This seems to be a conscious choice the editor or the author makes, which seems to us all about optics.
I hope it's not too premature to say here that I am hoping to edit a special issue of The Space Between with my PhD student Jilly Lippmann on the very topic of the Modern Girl in literature and print culture around the world. We have an essay on the Australian Modern Girl in the current issue of the Space Between Journal which will give away some of our thinking about this. A subset of this type is what Sarah Galletly has elsewhere referred to as "The Spectacular Traveling Woman" (with a nod to Liz Conor's work on The Spectacular Modern Woman). I do love Lorelei and admire your work on Loos. It would be great if you might consider contributing something about Loos herself or the Modern Girl trope to this soon to be proposed Special Issue, Faye. Watch this "space."
Susann continues to develop really interesting work around the print culture of oceans, which I think you and a few of us are also interested in. Next month's online Planetary Material Modernisms Group (April/May meeting) hopes to look at her work, alongside Hester Blum's and Kären Wigen's. All welcome.
The gender point you make is not unrelated. I think your point is a very good one, indeed. The middlebrow was not just about the feminine or the female reader, and despite some work making this point, there's much more thinking to do, and more material to archive and reflect upon, regarding this topic, I think.