Published: Jan. 2, 2004 By

[1] BERELOWITZ: (1) In this book you examine debates about marriage, family, sexuality, and gender by focusing on the marriages of Edward and Jo Hopper and Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz. I was struck by a shift from your previous focus on race and ethnicity in your book Art and Empire: The Politics of Ethicity in the U.S. Capitol to the emphasis in this one on gender. What drew you from the dramas of ethnicity on the national arena to the more intimate dynamic that occurs between couples?

[2] FRYD: My switch in emphasis from race and ethnicity in the U.S. Capitol in Art and Empire to gender in Art and the Crisis of Marriage resulted from three major influences: my interest in the feminist movement while an undergraduate and graduate student in the 1970s; my increasing interest in and understanding of critical theory, especially feminist and gender studies; and questions raised by my students and myself while teaching the art of Hopper and O’Keeffe. I began studying art history as an undergraduate at Ohio State University in 1970 when the feminist movement was beginning. At that time, as Linda Nochlin and others have pointed out, women artists were marginalized from the canon and scholars began to study “forgotten” women “masters.” I was aware of the burgeoning scholarship about women artists and feminist issues, as well as feminist artists such as Judy Chicago and Eleanor Antin. I also took one of the first courses in women’s studies, which contributed to my interests in resurrecting and understanding women artists. Art and the Crisis of Marriage in fact evolved from the first class I ever took on American art: American art between the Two World Wars with Barbara S. Groseclose in 1975. At that time, I wrote a rather naïve and uninformed paper about the image of women during this period. Much later, in 1992, I audited a graduate seminar on critical theory, which led to my teaching and studying in greater detail feminist art, art history, and theory, as well as gender constructions. At the same time, while giving lectures every spring semester on Hopper and O’Keeffe, my students and I began to question the ways in which Jo Hopper’s modeling for her husband allowed her to gain agency in her painted representations and what this may inform us about their relationship. My interest in O’Keeffe developed from the papers my students wrote about The Radiator Building located at Fisk University; I never felt that they fully understood the layers of meanings in it, so I began to examine this work in more detail. This led me to consider other works by O’Keeffe, Stieglitz’s photographs of O’Keeffe, and my realization that particular art works by Hopper and O’Keeffe intersect in the ways in which their marriages were played out.

[3] BERELOWITZ: (3) There is always a risk in arguing for a transparency between an artist’s work and life – the assumption that the work illuminates the life and the life, the work. How have you negotiated this difficult terrain and how do you think you have managed to avoid its pitfalls? And, along these lines, how have you managed to negotiate the equally tricky pitfall of seeming to cater to a voyeuristic interest in the personal lives of these renowned artists?

[4] FRYD: I recognized from the outset that I needed to be careful about addressing biography and art and the intersection of the two. I certainly did not want to exploit the biographies of the artists in the way that the film, “Pollock,” did, nor did I want to contribute to the stereotypes exhibited in that film of an artist’s wife as a neurotic shrew, which could have been the case with Jo Hopper. Fortunately Griselda Pollock, an influence upon my scholarship since Art and Empire, provided a quote that enabled me, I hope, to address these issues in a more balanced manner: as she wrote in “Agency and the Avant-Garde,” “paintings, drawings, and letters . . . are not reflections or expressions of a given and coherent subjectivity prior to the work,” but “rather their status becomes that of unforeseen and yet complex texts generated from a subject position [of the author/artist],” in this case Hopper and O’Keeffe. Elsewhere Pollock argues that a “feminist intervention in the histories of art” involves the recognition that “sexual difference is produced through an interconnecting series of social practices and institutions of which families, education, art studies, galleries and magazines are a part” (second emphasis mine). Mieke Bal and Norman Bryson in “Semiotics and Art History” further provided ways for me to address art and biography in a more nuanced fashion: “The ‘author’ is not an origin, but one link in a chain,” an “usher gathering in the various causal strands . . . before the work.”Art and the Crisis of Marriage thus focuses upon the “causal strands” that involve gender, family, marriage, and sexuality, showing how these two American painters’ histories and art merge with the culture at large. I thus argue that the meanings of artworks are determined both consciously and unconsciously by artists influenced by social and cultural factors. I thus reclaim the author/artist, whether a man or woman (O’Keeffe, Stieglitz, Jo and Edward Hopper), as a participant in a “series of causation” that results in a work of art. The work of art, in turn, has amorphous boundaries in which meanings circulate among other texts and between other sites of social formation, participating in and negotiating among various ideologies, in this case, those involving marriage, gender, sexuality, the body, and the gaze. I hope that these theoretical models enabled me to avoid the voyeuristic interest in the personal lives of the artists.

[5] BERELOWITZ: (5) At one point (48) you write that “Jo and Edward Hopper, on the one hand, and O’Keeffe and Stieglitz, on the other, represent different resolutions to the marital crisis that pervaded white middle-class American culture and society.”  You seem to be positioning these couples as polar opposites. Granted, on some levels, this does seem to be the case. Certainly one can argue that O’Keeffe represents a willingness to transgress puritanical sexual mores – not only in terms of the highly sexualized photographs which Stieglitz took of her, in whose production she collaborated, and in the exhibition of which she seemingly acquiesced, but also in her willingness to live openly with him for several years in a relationship not sanctioned by marriage. Hopper, on the other hand, seems to stand for the persistence of Victorian mores into the 20th century. And yet one can also argue that artists almost always operate outside the conventional mainstream – and that this renders them less useful as paradigms for hot-button issues in their day. Do you see the marriages of these two artist couples as paradigmatic of issues that faced marriages during the first third of this century?

[6] FRYD: I did wonder what marriage could have to do with art and artists given the widespread assumption that artists exist outside the norm of society and bourgeois culture. Artists, art historians, and critics promote this view, positioning art beyond the traditional, middlebrow, conservative, and typical cultural patterns. Pablo Picasso’s art has been viewed within the context of his many mistresses as is evident in Steve Martin’s play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, and the movie, Surviving Picasso. Marsden Hartley’s homosexuality forms the basis of many studies, while Renoir’s secret affair with a lower class woman often inspires commentary. Artists, according to this account, exemplify non-traditional and experimental lives that defy the norm; they challenge tradition in art, society, and culture often exemplified by their sexual orientations or affairs. They seem to exist outside the realm of the ordinary, which is the case with O’Keeffe and Stieglitz. What is at stake, we might ask, in considering artists within the context of marriage?  The fear of ordinariness which seems antithetical to what we consider to be the norm of an artist’s bohemian lifestyle? Does this association threaten our expectations that artists belong to an outside status in terms of culture, placing them instead within the context of white, middle-class conventionality? Does this imply the lowering of the artists’ status from the “high art” realm to the middlebrow, mainstream category that they themselves so adamantly resisted? Even though artists have married and divorced, their experiences within the confines of family life seem antithetical to the production of art and the kind of mentality that produces it. As I continued my research, I recognized that the older notions of marriage, which entailed the imposition of patriarchal authority, the repression of female sexuality, the control of male sexuality, and the occurrence of unplanned pregnancy, and the newer ones, which were yet to be fully formulated but which included affection, comradeship, and mutual sexual gratification, affected the art and lives of both artists and their spouses. I also realized that marriage and the family were considered institutions in crisis because of issues that related to O’Keeffe and Hopper’s art and lives: overt discussions of sexuality, increased industrialization and urbanization, and women entering the workforce. I hope that my book resolves some of these puzzling issues, showing that marriage indeed forms one frame through which art can be viewed and further understood, especially with O’Keeffe and Hopper.

[6] BERELOWITZ: One of the factors that makes the work of Hopper, O’Keeffe, and Stieglitz so fascinating is the articulation of a growing awareness and openness in the society at large with matters sexual. As I think about the work of other modernists active in America during these years – artists like Duchamp, Demuth, Hartley, Stettheimer, it seems that what they are all dealing with in their art is a crisis in sexuality. Although you’ve chosen to focus on the crisis of marriage, wasn’t sexuality in general a newly opened terrain for exploration between 1910 and 1940?

[7] FRYD: The crisis of marriage and changing attitudes towards sexuality indeed can be found in the art of other artists such as Duchamp, Demuth, Hartley, and Stettheimer. I originally had considered including a section on the New York Dada movement, focusing especially on the art of Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia. I posited that their works that construct gender identities along technological and organic lines could be examined within the context of American novels such as Sherwood Anderson’s Poor White(1920) and John Dos Passos’ Big Money (1936) and that Duchamp’sLarge Glass, which embodies the inability of a bride and groom to consummate their marriage, could also be addressed within the context of the American white middle-class marriage-in-crisis. I realized, however, that it would be difficult to sustain the connections among the New York Dada movement, O’Keeffe, and Hopper, that issues concerning Duchamp’s and Picabia’s nationality as Frenchmen living in New York would complicate matters, especially in terms of cultural studies, and that the resultant book would be too long. Wanda Corn in The Great American Thing does a fantastic job of addressing the transatlantic nature of art from 1915-1935 and issues related to sexuality (but not necessarily marriage).

[8] BERELOWITZ:  You touch on a number of fascinating themes that I would like to ask you to expand on. One of them is the significance of the hotel as a motif in the work of Hopper and O’Keeffe. In the case of Hopper, hotels are often the subject of his work. In the case of O’Keeffe, the Shelton Hotel was her and Stieglitz’s residence for many years. Could you comment further on the role of the hotel in the work of these artists and, perhaps, on the role of the hotel in the crisis of marriage?

[9] FRYD: I am fascinated that you ask this question because I had not thought about the connection between Hopper and O’Keeffe in terms of the subject of hotels! Yes, O’Keeffe and Stieglitz lived in the Shelton Hotel for many years, but this was primarily a bachelor hotel (which itself raises questions that I failed to explore in my book). When O’Keeffe and Stieglitz rendered this building in their art works, they focused upon it more as a symbol of the New York City skyscraper and its embodiment of modernity. The images themselves do not address relationships or the institution of marriage. The Shelton Hotel as a bachelor pad, however, does raise issues connected to this. What does it mean, for example, that hotels existed during this period for single men and single women, including residences for women that ranged from establishments like the Salvation Army to more upscale “residence clubs” like the Barbizon or Martha Washington? Were rules enforced about certain behaviors, such as when women could visit? I know that Claire Tichi at the University of California, Berkeley is writing a dissertation on the residential bachelor hotel during the 1950s, so these questions may be answered by her and applied to the art of O’Keeffe and Stieglitz. Paul Groth in Living Downtown: The History of Residential Hotels in the United Statesdoes address the issue of gender in such hotels, explaining that single women in the upper and middle classes took advantage of hotel service which freed them from household work. Hopper on the other hand represented people, often women, inside hotels that did not function as a bachelor residence. And his images convey more the theme of isolation of modern man rather than that of modernity, which takes on additional significance, according to Tichi, because discussions of bachelorhood for men and women always touch on individualism, isolation, and loneliness as well as the problem of sex roles. The single woman is a particularly weighty symbol of isolation in the modern scene because she is totally detached from what at the time would be considered her natural role as wife and mother. While single men were long tolerated and often elevated as symbols of freedom and individualism, the single woman, and by extension the urban single residence, represents special urban problems.

[10] BERELOWITZ: The other interesting theme that these very different couples shared was the automobile. You note on several occasions that for both Jo and O’Keeffe the automobile symbolized emancipation. Could you elaborate on this and on the automobile’s role in the crisis of marriage?

[11] FRYD: I was surprised and delighted to learn that Americans during the two world wars considered the automobile as one cause of the destabilization of the modern white middle-class family because Hopper often painted images with roads and cars. I was also surprised and delighted to learn that some associated the car with unsupervised dating, which they believed led to pregnancy, a threat to the innocence and purity of young women but also to the social fabric of American families and ultimately American culture. I argue that these issues are manifest in some paintings by Hopper, but that the automobile takes on additional significance as a site of conflict between Hopper and his wife. Just as the automobile was a site of bitter dispute, physical abuse, and battles over control for the Hoppers, it also became a point of departure in the debate over the proper place of women within modern society: in the home or in the passenger seat. I also realized that Stieglitz’s fifteen photographs of O’Keeffe beside her sedan embodied tensions in their marriage as well as O’Keeffe’s declaration of independence from her dominating husband. It moreover existed as a central unifying force in the later years of O’Keeffe and Stieglitz during a period of marital discord. Their collaboration on these photographs brought them closer in spite of his affair with Dorothy Norman and their disagreement over her commission for the Radio City Music Hall mural.

[12] BERELOWITZ: You seem to be at least partly in agreement with art historians like Anna Chave who view O’Keeffe as subjected to a process of sexualization by Stieglitz, especially in his early series of erotic photographs of her. Reading your book and thinking about the issues you engage with prompts me to explore another – and alternative – hypothesis.  Might we not argue that O’Keeffe (who collaborated with Stieglitz in the production of these images) was actively working through these images to project herself as sexual, subscribing thereby to the revolt against convention that was so much a part of modernism? Could we not also argue that by posing and then acquiescing in the exhibition of the photographs, O’Keeffe was working to disrupt the relegation of women to the private (domestic) sphere; that what she was doing via these images was, precisely, refusing the invisibility to which women were consigned by modernism, which so focused on the heroic avant-garde male artist; that what she was presenting here was the avant-garde woman/woman-artist? While O’Keeffe was the “model,” she was also, clearly, the “model-who-is-also-an-artist” – as the many images of her with her work attest. Can we perhaps understand these images as constituting a statement by O’Keeffe about the empowering force of her own sexuality? For what OK does here – or collaborates in doing – is dislocate dominant ideas of femininity and women’s proper role. I think it is fair to assume that O’Keeffe would have been familiar with the photography of the Photo-Secession movement, in which Stieglitz played a leading role. In these photographs women were usually presented in the language of Symbolism – as embodiments of a mysterious female principle, but always according to a somewhat conventional notion of femininity: passivity, domesticity, sexual innocence, purity. Could we not argue that Stieglitz’s photographs of O’Keeffe were, at least in part, a mobilization by her to shift the conception of women, to capture and represent the changed situation of women in the modern world? Might she not have intended these photographs to serve as a contrast to the idiom of the Photo-Secession?

I pose these questions because it seems to me that these images which Chave essentially places within the genre of the artist-with-his-subjugated-model don’t quite fit there. There is, after all, a world of difference between Stieglitz’s images of O’Keeffe and Degas’s of the poor working class women whom he drew and painted. Here, particularly in the images which you have included in the book, O’Keeffe manipulates her breasts, or opens her gown to reveal a breast, or (dressed in a chemise) raises her arms (showing an unshaved armpit) against one of her own drawings. You note (125) that critics such as Mumford commented on the “absence of shame” in O’Keeffe’s work. What I am suggesting is that we might read her posing for Stieglitz as manifesting an “absence of shame” that is consistent with other radical positions she took. And of course, as you note, these are always images of O’Keeffe – her identity is always unquestionable. So – might these images constitute a subversion of the patriarchal order rather than a perpetuation of it?

[13] FRYD: I intended to argue precisely what you point out”that O’Keeffe, like Jo Hopper, both acted as the passive model for the active, patriarchal male artist and as an active agent in her own subjectivity as a means to challenge the patriarchal order as it existed in Stieglitz’s gallery and in the art world. If this argument is not clearly stated, then I appreciate the opportunity to do so within the context of your interview. I agree that Stieglitz’s photographs of O’Keeffe countered the types of nudes represented in the soft-focus photographs that he and others had produced in which the female nude is an object of desire for the masculine gaze. These artists perpetuated the traditional connection between woman and nature that prevailed at the turn of the century, reassuringly associating femininity with dependence, passivity, ornamentality, sexual innocence, and purity during a period of transformation in gender roles and identities. I have elaborated on this issue in an article that I have just submitted for publication in which I argue that soft focus or pictorial photography with its diffuse, atmospheric haze, tactile textures, and “Whistlerian cast” were gendered as feminine in the United States and were condemned by many critics in this country as degenerate and perverse. The pictorialist photographers themselves had been identified as effeminate, deviant, and eccentric charlatans who threatened American culture and morality. Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, and Stieglitz, among other men who had worked in the soft focus idiom turned to sharp focus or Straight photography, with its tight contours, precise details, deep shadows, and clearly defined forms, by the first decade of the twentieth century partly to resist critical condemnation and to remove the art photographer from an association with the feminine. Sharp focus photography, manifest in Stieglitz’sGeorgia O’Keeffe”A Portrait, became the style of the “manly” man who abhorred darkroom manipulation, a process also gendered as feminine and deceptive. By using this style in his extensive portrait of his wife, Stieglitz asserted his own virility and masculinity, which O’Keeffe resisted especially in The Radiator Building, a topic that I explore in chapter 6. In this work, as in the twenty some paintings that she painted of New York City skyscrapers, O’Keeffe appropriated techniques perfected by her husband in his medium of photography to reject the public perception of images of the skyscraper as a masculine art form. In so doing, however, she worked within the precisionist idiom of clear contours, little modulation in color, smooth, slick surfaces, solid shadows that emulated straight photography. O’Keeffe thus worked within a masculine painting style of these masculine subjects as a means to resist critical assessment of her art as feminine.

[14] BERELOWITZ: I was very interested in your application of Joan Riviere’s discussion of the “mask of femininity” to O’Keeffe. You make the point that within the context of Riviere’s theories “we might see O’Keeffe in Stieglitz’s photographs assuming ‘the mask of femininity’ to demonstrate her womanliness, thereby countering what were perceived as her (and her paintings’) ‘masculine’ ambitions.” Riviere is, admittedly, useful here for articulating an hypothesis about O’Keeffe and “masquerade.” What your discussion prompted me to wonder about is the possible fruitfulness of applying Lacanian theory to the representation of O’Keeffe in Stieglitz’s photographs. Lacan theorizes the inherent variability of identities formed through concrete discursive interaction, arguing that the identity that the “I” immediately experiences as its own derives from external images of wholeness and autonomy. I would be curious to hear your thoughts about Stieglitz’s images functioning as a kind of “mirror stage” for O’Keeffe.

[15] FRYD: I employed Joan Riviere’s discussion of the “mask of femininity” because she is a contemporary of O’Keeffe and Stieglitz. I thereby think that she provides one way through which a peer considered how women masked their “masculine” ambitions that is part of the zeitgeist, if you will, and hence an appropriate concept to examine O’Keeffe and her art. If you are suggesting that Lacan’s “mirror stage” in which a child recognizes himself or herself as separate from his/her mother, then perhaps this can be applied to O’Keeffe to suggest that she employed the photographs as a means to separate herself from her “Father,” i.e. Stieglitz, to create her own subjectivity. But this would be a shift in Lacanian theory in terms of my understanding of it.

[16] BERELOWITZ: I’d like to turn to your discussion of Riviere’s theories in relation to Jo Hopper. You write (150) that Jo “also appropriated a masquerade of femininity for her husband’s paintings” and suggest that “Jo assumed a mask not to reassure her husband of her non threatening position as an artist, but to assert her own sexual desirability. . .”  Your assumption seems to be that Jo played an active role in determining the representations that were made of her – that it was she who engineered her transformation from a conservative and unremarkable-looking wife to the provocative and highly-sexed woman in such images asGirlie Show. Was Jo an active agent in such representations, or was she merely the scaffolding for Hopper’s construction of a more sexualized woman?

[17] FRYD: I argue that Jo was an active agent in her representations of herself as model for Hopper’s provocative and highly-sexualized paintings of women. She delighted, for example, in the increased sexualization of her figure in Office at Night. In preliminary drawings for this work for which Jo modeled, the secretary underwent a process of increased voluptuousness as her body became more curvaceous due to her tight fitting dress and her more visible make up. Jo noted in her diary about this painting: “I’m to pose for the same female [fishing in a filing cabinet] tonight in a tight skirt short to show legs”Nice I have good legs and up and coming stockings.” In her record book about Hopper’s art, she emphasized this woman’s up-to-date overt sexuality in terms of dress and make-up, writing that she wears “a blue dress, white collar, flesh stockings, black pumps & black hair & plenty of lipstick.” Jo and her husband, in fact, worked together to create personas for the women in his paintings. As Jo explained, all the women in Hopper’s paintings have names that they invented. They called the woman in the theater in Intermission, “Norah,” while the secretary in Office at Night was identified as “Shirley,” and the couple in Sea Watchers show “Sheila and Adam, Irish girl [and] Yankee clam digger.” Jo delighted in assisting her husband in constructing the fictional identities and likenesses of his various painted women that project a specific type, a type that is always sexualized and eroticized.

[18] BERELOWITZ: You make the interesting point that Hopper’s work addresses sites of visibility for women that were hotly contested: strip shows and offices. These would not have been sites that Jo frequented. What was it, then, that led him to situate his wife in these contexts?

[19] FRYD: One could argue that Hopper’s sketches and descriptions of the strip club and offices, sites that Jo never visited, would have enabled Jo to visualize herself in these locations. I consider it more significant, however, that in these paintings — in particular his Girlie Show and Office at Night — the power struggles between the Hoppers become visualized, becoming one more battleground within their troubled marriage. Rather than merely reflecting these conflicts, these works become active agents in a dialectic between husband and wife, artist and model, beholder and subject, male and female, and painter and manager. In these paintings more than any others, Edward silences Jo, and she in turn silences him.

[20] BERELOWITZ: You comment at the end of the book (202) that after the deaths of their husbands, both women, by exerting control over the dissemination of their husband’s estates, to some extent reversed the control that their husbands had exerted over their bodies. Yet Stieglitz’s inscription of O’Keeffe as a woman who “paints from her womb” and Hopper’s relegation of Jo to wife and model still prevail. Could you address this?

[21] FRYD: Not everyone looking at Hopper’s paintings recognizes that his wife modeled for his paintings. His painted fantasies, then, enabled a greater distance between model and painting. I would not agree that he “relegated” her to the roles of wife and model since she willingly participated in these roles, empowering herself as his model while simultaneously acting as his spokesman, secretary, and manager. She continued her role of his manager by donating his estate to the Whitney Museum, which positioned him as one of the giants of American painting. O’Keeffe struggled throughout her life to define her own reputation apart from her husband’s sexualization of her art. She would not allow her good friend Anita Pollitzer to publish her autobiography, complaining that facts were muddled and wrong and that her idea of O’Keeffe as an artist was a mere dream. She failed to approve of Laurie Lisle’s unauthorized biography and instead wrote her own in 1976 in the midst of the feminist movement when many artists and art historians insisted on her entry into the canon as an artist who represented vaginal iconography. She made it clear that only she could interpret her art with authority and establish her own reputation free from Stieglitz’s and feminists’ insistence that her art embodied women’s feelings, emotions, and body parts. She thus selected Juan Hamilton and Sarah Greenough to compile her letters (under her guidance), contributed to Perry Miller Adato’s famous documentary, and assisted Greenough in mounting a major retrospective of  Stieglitz’s photographs, significantly eliminating those of Dorothy Norman, his mistress. O’Keeffe, in other words, worked hard to re-construct her own reputation separate from the sexualization of her and her art. Whether or not she succeeded in this, I cannot say, but she clearly challenged the idea that she painted from her womb, leading to debates about her intentions and the meanings of the art works.

[22] BERELOWITZ: What do you see as your next project? Do you see yourself continuing to work with gender issues?

[23] FRYD: I have already begun working on my next book project:Rape and Incest: Imaging and Imagining Sexual Violence in American Art.  It considers art, gender, sexuality, religion, politics, and race in an effort to increase awareness of and end the silence about sexual violence and rape, a topic in the United States that is a source and product of cultural anxiety, contradiction, and censorship. The resulting book will be an analysis of particular post-1970 artworks by feminist artists who overtly address the sexism involved in sexual violence and rape against women and who thus mark a radical turn from earlier, sanitized representations of the subject primarily by male artists. These earlier images represent sexual violence as natural, acceptable, and inevitable.  The book also addresses male rape, a topic first given prominence by a few psychologists and some men’s groups in the 1980s, and one of increasing concern given the current sex-abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. I have completed two chapters The first examines the anti-rape movement of the 1970s and Suzanne Lacy’s role as a performance artist in that movement. She created what Lacy called New Genre Public Art in which the art is framed as expanded public pedagogy, combining activism, performance art, political statement, and mass media theory to insert the subject of sexual violence against women in the public consciousness and to advocate reforms. The second completed chapter discusses  At Home: A Kentucky Project with Judy Chicago and Donald Woodman, a site installation created by students at Western Kentucky University who renovated a house in 2002, revisiting the subject of the home as a domestic space that Chicago along with Miriam Shapiro had earlier explored in Womanhouse(1971). Three spaces in this home address a number of taboo subjects concerning sexual violence in the middle-class American home: Abuse Closet, which addresses domestic violence; Nighmare Nursery, which exposes incest; and Rape Garage, which condemns the role of pornography in creating a culture that endorses sexual violence against women and which addresses female-on-male rape, another taboo subject. Connected to the book is an article that I am writing about Harriet Hosmer’s Beatrice Cenci(1853-5), which examines its incest narrative within the context of Victorian attitudes towards gender and sexuality, arguing that Hosmer “ghosted” the subject. In the term “ghosting” to discuss incest, I borrow from Terry Castle, who asserts that same-sex female relationships have been “ghosted”–or made to seem invisible by culture itself. I thus apply the term to Hosmer’s Beatrice Cenci to show that the statue “ghosts” another silenced past and taboo: incest. I thus argue that Beatrice Cenci creates a “ghosted” incest narrative, a narrative that did not fully and clearly enter American culture until the 1970s. Hosmer selected a subject that addresses the ambiguity, denial, and horror that many Americans felt about the subject of incest during the Victorian era. This article will form a chapter in yet a second book in which I examine earlier American images from the nineteenth century to the 1950s that do not name the subjects of rape or incest but instead represent them as natural, acceptable, and inevitable. I argue that these earlier works participated in the same cultural myths found in juridical, diplomatic, political, and literary discourses that rationalize rape as an ingrained behavior.

Works Cited:

  • Anderson, Sherwood. Poor White. (New York: B.W. Huebsch, 1920). Reprint, New York: New Directions, 1993.
  • Bal, Mieke, and Norman Bryson. “Semiotics and art History.” The Art Bulletin 73 (June 1991): 174-208.
  • Corn, Wanda. The Great American Thing: Modern Art and National Identity, 1915-1935. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1999).
  • Dos Passos, John. Big Money. (Amereon Ltd. 1940).
  • Green-Fryd, Vivien. Art and Empire: The Politics of Ethnicity in the U.S. Capitol. (Yale University Press, 1992).
  • Groth, Paul. Living Downtown: The History of Residential Hotels in the U.S. (University of California Press, 1994).
  • Pollock, Griselda. “Agency and the Avant-Garde: Studies in Authorship and History by way of Van Gogh.” InAvant-Gardes and Partisans Reviewed, edited by Fred Orton and Griselda Pollock. (Manchester: Manchester University Press. 1996).
  • Riviere, Joan. “Womanliness as Masquerade.” In Psychoanalysis and Female Sexuality, edited by Hendrik M. Ruitenbeek, 209-20. (New Haven, Conn.: College and University Press, 1966). First published inInternational Journal of Psychoanalysis 9, (1929): 303-13