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Gender and the ‘masquerade’ in James Joyce, Joan Riviere and Marlene Dietrich, 1925–30

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My article, which begins by noting the fluke meeting between writer James Joyce and film star Marlene Dietrich in a Paris restaurant, considers the importance of masquerade and gender performativity in three texts of the late 1920s: an extract from Joyce’s final novel, Finnegans Wake, first published in 1925; Dietrich’s film, The Blue Angel (1930); and Joan Riviere’s psychoanalytic essay, ‘Womanliness as a masquerade’ (1929). After critically assessing the term ‘masquerade’ and Riviere’s reflections on it, I discuss the significance of Dietrich’s self-made costumes for The Blue Angel, arguing that she recognises the playful potential of the masquerade. Following this, I discuss the gender performativity of ALP, the heroine of Finnegans Wake, noting that her chapter of the novel shares with Dietrich’s and Riviere’s texts an emphasis on gender instability and shows how this can be performed through fashionable dress. I end by noting that Joyce, a male modernist often criticized for his reductive representations of women, is highly sensitive to the relationship between fashion and gender at this point in time.
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Keywords: Dietrich; Joyce; Riviere; femininity; masquerade; performance

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: King’s College London

Publication date: December 1, 2016

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  • Film, Fashion & Consumption is a peer-reviewed journal designed to provide an arena for the discussion of research, methods and practice within and between the fields of film, fashion, design, history, art history and heritage. The journal seeks to stimulate ongoing research on these topics and to attract contributions not only from scholars researching in these areas but also from practitioners, who are traditionally excluded from academic debate. The journal thus aims to unite and enlarge a community of researchers and practitioners in film, fashion, consumption and related fields, whilst also introducing a wider audience to new work, particularly to interdisciplinary research which looks at the intersections between film, fashion and consumption.
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