[This is part 1 of 4]
For my final project in Dr. Bourrier’s Digitizing Women Writers seminar, I have decided to analyze the connection between women’s art and women’s literature over the span of The Yellow Book periodical, with some reflections on how this is affected by contemporary digital scholarship. After a lengthy process of translating The Yellow Book table of contents to spreadsheet form and then researching each artist, I have used Tableau to create a visualization that represents the gender breakdown for visual artist contributors.
My hope is that this chart can easily convey information that I don’t think has been completely synthesized elsewhere. I have relied heavily on Dennis Denisoff & Lorraine Janzen Kooistra’s digitization of the periodical, The Yellow Nineties; although I referred to the University of Calgary’s print copies of The Yellow Book, I have followed The Yellow Nineties‘ tables of contents and referred to their introductions and biographies (where possible) for information on gender. Where their project didn’t provide a clear answer on gender, I attempted to find other sources. I used a limited number of scholarly print sources, but mainly relied on short biographies from institutions like the Tate Modern or the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Victorian Web. When this failed, I made the choice in a few places to assign a gender based on the artist’s name (if it seemed to me fairly unambiguously gendered) or honorifics such as Mrs. or Miss. The few artists whose gender I have recorded as unknown are mostly those who have contributed only a single work under initials and a surname.
As my focus is on women contributors, I don’t want to overemphasize the presence of those artists that I haven’t designated as female. Without wanting to contribute to the erasure of the artistic output of potentially female artists, it might not be unreasonable to assume these unknown artists are male – and I suspect most Victorian readers would have made this same assumption. It seems important to account both for how these texts have presented themselves historically and how we can read them now given a certain amount of secondary research. Furthermore, where I am capable of knowing a particular pseudonymous or ambiguously named artist as female, there exists the likelihood that this knowledge would have been available to the periodical’s editors and its communities of contributors.
This gets to the root of why I think this kind of analysis is important: when we look at Victorian women’s periodical work from a distance, and in particular the relationships between women’s writing and women’s visual art, it becomes possible to see meaningful patterns of representation in across volumes or even meaningful juxtapositions of individual works. This is informed by Linda K. Hughes’ approach in “Women Poets and Contested Spaces in The Yellow Book,” which disrupts the conventional understanding of thematic divide in the periodical’s publication history:
[P]oems by women in The Yellow Book are most fruitfully approached in terms of four, rather than two, stages of publication history: an initial male-dominated phase (volumes 1-3); a second phase instigated by the journal’s entanglement with decadence and the trial (volumes 4-6); an eclectic phase characterized by gender equity (volumes 7-12); and, in the final volume (13), a resumption of male domination in terms of numbers, yet accompanied by an integration of New Woman poetics, a synthesis of poetry’s gendered dynamic throughout the journal’s run. (850-1)
This argument allows Hughes to account for shifts in gendered representation, gendered differences in artistic reactions to the Wilde trial, and, ultimately, a shift in how artists of all genders depicted women (and the New Woman) that can be usefully conceptualized as a response to the artistic output of peers in earlier journals (Hughes 864). My own work shows somewhat similar trends in women’s visual art, although I will elaborate about the particular relationships I think it has to writing (along lines of gender) in later posts, as well as going over the data itself in more detail.