Karla Huebner (Assistant Professor, Department of Art and Art History, Wright State University)
“Gentleman: An Interwar Czech Consumer Magazine”
During the First Republic (1918-1938), Czechoslovakia was a hotbed of periodical production. Looking through the titles in the card catalog at the National Library in Prague, one gets the feeling that Czechs started periodicals as readily as people now start blogs, and on as wide a variety of topics. One could subscribe to magazines and newspapers dealing with literature, design, politics, humor, medicine, fashion, and film, to name just a few foci. Just like periodicals today, frequency ran the gamut from daily to quarterly and annual; and production values ranged from poor design on newsprint to high-end, lavishly produced products with four-color printing, glossy paper, and layout that remains impressive today.
My research on interwar Czech art and culture, which has looked particularly at surrealism, gender, and sexuality, has made much use of periodicals to illumine both what avant-gardists had to say and what sorts of discourses circulated among the population at large. To obtain some relatively accurate sense of these discourses and cultural trends, I’ve had to develop an ability to rapidly eyeball numerous publications—what do they look like, who were some major voices, do they mention topics of special interest to me—while I examine a much smaller number in more depth. Although I often feel I am just beginning to scratch the surface, other scholars have suggested I be less modest about what I’ve accomplished.
In my talk at Princeton, I’d like to combine the sort of overview I’ve just given with a fuller examination of the magazine Gentleman, which was published in Prague in the 1920s and presented a refined, anglophile, upwardly mobile vision of masculinity that had attractions for men of more than one sexual orientation. Gentleman offers us some interesting insights into Czech internationalism, gender, and cultural goals.