Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair
In the introductory chapter of her book, The Gender o f Modernity, Rita Felski writes, “If our sense of the past is inevitably shaped by the explanatory logic of narrative, then the stories that we create in turn reveal the inescapable presence and power of gender symbolism” (1). Anita Loos’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Djuna Barnes’s Ladies Almanack are two such stories; however, they both do more than simply reveal gender’s presence and power. These works of literature question the gender ideologies of the early twentieth century, challenging their power and inescapability by producing other, perhaps unknown, unthought of or misunderstood spaces for women to exist. Each novel, in its own way, takes the perceived truths about what women are, or are supposed to be and turns them on their head. Barnes and Loos attempt to jam the theoretical machinery by attacking middle class sensibilities, while at the same time creating a tension, which exists between mutually flawed characters ripe with contradiction. Thus, each novel raises the question of how does one live without ever being able to definitively answer that question. It is the presence of this ideological destabilization in both Loos’s and Barnes’s novels which helps secure their place within the feminist tradition; however, it is the way Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Ladies Almanack go about shaking up patriarchal ideology that makes them even more fascinating and forward thinking. Blondes ’ Lorelei Lee and the Almanack’s Dame Evangeline Musset are no suffragettes and probably would not have been accepted by feminists of their time. They aren’t interested in the battle for equality with men; they don’t appear to have much faith that it could happen anyway. What they are interested in, however, is reclaiming for women some of what men have taken from them. What they are interested in is giving women the power to make decisions about whom or what they are.
In chapter one of this thesis, an analysis of Anita Loos’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Djuna Barnes’s Ladies Almanack, which will illustrate how each uses this idea of the socially constructed nature of gender identity in order to destabilize and subvert the patriarchy’s claims of women’s inferiority and lack, which define what women are supposed to be, is provided. Later on, in chapter two, the form each author chose for her novel, the diary and the almanac respectively, is examined in order to show how their choices serve to destabilize the gender ideologies of the early twentieth century, and allow them to present various, alternate identities for women to inhabit.
Coyne, Timothy, "What is Woman? : Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Ladies Almanack, and Woman's Search for Her Identity in the 1920s" (2013). Theses, Dissertations and Culminating Projects. 801.