Frederick, Sarah. Turning Pages: Reading and Writing Women’s Magazines in Interwar Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2006. Print.
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Key Words: Magazines; Interwar period; Japan’s Modernity; Women’s Periodicals; Japanese History; the Modern Girl; Flapper; Print Culture.
Brief Overview: Detailed analysis of several interwar women’s magazines. The book attempts a close examination of their literature, articles, advertising, and art.
Summary of key points:
• In Chapter 1, Frederick discusses the emergence of women’s magazines, and that the circulation figures of these magazines reflect how the reading habits of Japanese women changed in the 1920s.
• The author then refers to the changes in print technology and the distribution in the publishing industry as a reason that so many women’s magazines could emerge in this period. She also mentions the changes in the economy, in institutional structures of society and the increase of interest in women’s issues as contributing to the rise in women’s magazines.
• The targeted audience, and the representational stereotype of these women’s magazines, was the Japanese “modern girl.” Yet this stereotype was represented ambiguously. On one hand, there was much derision attached to this figure, and many of the magazines depicted her as one who was prone to immorality and vice. On the other, she represented freedom and the future of Japanese women, and was the subject of many advertisements.
“…in the 1920s women’s magazines were a focal point through which were articulated crises over consumer capitalism, gender roles, and national morality” (2).
“By the early 1920s, the ladies’ magazine had become a distinct category of publication, one that numerous cultural critics debated and in which feminine roles such as housewife…, new woman…, or girl…were defined” (2).
“At the same time, one should not assume that the texts are a ‘direct expression’ of the desires of their readers even through they reveal so much about them. The very ‘fullness’ and complexity of those ‘aspirations’ and ‘desires’ require a sensitivity to unpack and a close attention to the role of media in communicating them” (5).
Significance in relation to potential project: This chapter outlines a methodology for analysing print culture in general, which could provide a template for the argument in my essay. Instead of analyzing authors from women’s magazines, she analyses the magazines themselves, including the editorial choices within the magazines, the advertisements, the type of fiction included, and what ideological influences can be read in the magazines.
For our group topic, while many of this book’s insights are useful, we will need to be aware that much of this book focuses on Japanese culture and scholarship. While generally relevant for women’s magazines elsewhere, we will need to be careful not to take this research out of context. Nevertheless, there are some quotes and discussions within the chapter that can help to shape our analysis of representations of women in the periodical press of the 1920s, and of women’s magazines in this era more generally.
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