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Invisible Scarlet O’neil and the Whitman authorized editions for girls: homefront representations of the american feminine and the feminine heroic during World War II

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Title: Invisible Scarlet O’neil and the Whitman authorized editions for girls: homefront representations of the american feminine and the feminine heroic during World War II
Author(s): Nielsen, Anna L.
Director of Research: Jenkins, Christine A.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Hearne, Elizabeth G.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Jenkins, Christine A.; Schiller, Daniel T.; Smith, Linda C.
Department / Program: Library & Information Science
Discipline: Library & Information Science
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): children's literature culture industry World War II 1940s Whitman Authorized Editions Invisible Scarlet O'Neil feminine heroic youth media superhero superheroine film comic books newspaper comics women girls series books youth literature
Abstract: This dissertation analyzes the popular construction of femininity in the United States during World War II and the ways in which a set of mass market series books for girls participated in and reflected the persuasive campaigns of government, private industry, and mass media to script feminine roles and behaviors in the United States during and shortly after World War II. The dissertation illustrates and explains how the Whitman Authorized Editions for Girls, and especially Invisible Scarlett O’Neil, the first female superhero in the American culture industry, reflected and modeled the lives of women in three stages. Overall, cultural representations of women began as domestic paragons of good behavior and traditional feminine beauty, changed into women working in traditionally male jobs to maintain and defend the homefront, and then gracefully returned to the domestic sphere. Geertz’s (1973) idea of common sense as cultural system is extended to consider the cultural symbolism and cultural presuppositions that impacted the stories and were presented in the stories of the Whitman Authorized Editions for Girls. While studies have been done concerning the intertwining of propaganda imperatives and adult popular fiction, this dissertation helps bridge the literature gap between propaganda studies and children’s popular fiction. Further, the cultural definitions and uses of Denning (1987), Cawelti (1976), and Wright (2001) are extended to examine a set of formula fictions based on newspaper strips, comic books, and motion-picture stars. In addition, the work of McGrath (1973) and Albrecht (1956) concerning the interaction of popular fiction and popular culture, the work of Gates (2003) concerning fantasy, and the work of Butler (1990) concerning identity and gender are extended to analyze how The Whitman Authorized Editions For Girls reinforced the social norms of the World War II period and operated as cultural fantasies of American femininity during this period. However, as Nava (1992) points out, the auditioning of identity through the consuming of cultural norms can sometimes be an empowering moment of finding identity and power in that identity. Many a reader may have grown up to fight crime without being invisible and to wear pants beyond 1945. I like to think they did.
Issue Date: 2010-05-19
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/16029
Rights Information: Copyright 2010 Anna L. Nielsen
Date Available in IDEALS: 2010-05-19
Date Deposited: May 2010
 

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