AbstractsWomens Studies

Cherchez la femme: Franco-American Relations through Popular Magazines' Representations of French and American Women, 1945-1965.

by Edward E. Timke

Institution: University of Michigan
Department: Communication Studies
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Keywords: magazines; post-World War II Franco-American relations; representations of women; international communication; national identity; social comparison; History (General); West European Studies; Women's and Gender Studies; Communications; Humanities; Social Sciences
Record ID: 2059763
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/111528


This project examines how French and American magazines??? comparisons of American and French women, respectively, worked through U.S.-French relations after World War II into the 1960s (1945-1965). Drawing from over 2,500 primary source documents collected over two years from company, library, and personal archives in the U.S. and France, this project takes a grounded theory approach to analyze articles, covers, images, advertisements, and readers??? letters for emergent themes. The overall analysis reveals national social comparison at work, which, in this case, is the constant comparison between two closely related nations to sort out who is better. On the one hand, French and American magazines used American and French women to show the countries??? mutual fascination and desire to be like one other. On the other hand, magazines critiqued women as a strategy to maintain national superiority and to compare French and American ways of life and how to move forward in the postwar world: the American way rooted in consumerism and technology; and the French way steeped in tradition above efficient materialism. Key periods of postwar Franco-American relations and their accompanying themes structure the dissertation: Apprehensive Admiration (1945-1952); Mutual Fascination and Liberation (1952-1960); and Troubles in Adulation (1960-1965). This dissertation makes four contributions to media studies, history, and gender studies. First, it shows how international relations and understanding are managed through popular media. Second, it evidences print magazines??? important place after World War II to work within and between imagined national communities. In particular, it moves beyond typical single-nation studies of magazines by comparatively historicizing magazines??? international nature and impact. Third, despite having been used in well-written histories of the Franco-American experience, magazines have been understudied and under appreciated. This dissertation adds to the growing, much-needed mediated history of Franco-American relations preceding the digital age. Lastly, the project details how representations of women, who come to embody and stand in for the nation, mediate symbolic battles between nations. Namely, one sees how representations of women sort out how nations see themselves, how nations compare themselves to other nations, and how nations envision their place in the world.