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Lee Miller and the Limits of Post-war British Modernity: Feminity, Fashion, and the Problem of Biography

Conekin, Becky (2005) Lee Miller and the Limits of Post-war British Modernity: Feminity, Fashion, and the Problem of Biography. In: Fashion and Modernity. Berg, pp. 39-61. ISBN 1845200276

Type of Research: Book Section
Creators: Conekin, Becky

The piece contributes to two distinct literatures. The first is the growing field of ‘new biography’ and thus represents a new genre in my academic career. In this vein, it argues for questioning assumptions and practices in biography that insist on creating coherent, unified stories of their subjects. It calls for a more complicated assessment of Miller’s life and work, acknowledging the mystery of her retirement from photography before the age of fifty.

She had a fascinating career a model, muse, photographer and even war correspondent, but by the time she was 40 years old, she was retired and living in the English country-side as a privileged gourmet and hostess. The historical record has not been kind in relation to the last 30 years of her life, generally portraying her as ‘difficult’ and a drunk.

This piece makes an intervention into the historiography of post-WWII Britain and reassesses Miller’s later life and interests within the specific context of post-war Britain, simultaneously considering the importance of gender and the way it may have circumscribed privileged women’s choices in the 1950s and 60s.

Official Website: http://www.bergpublishers.com/?tabid=670
Additional Information (Publicly available):

Becky Conekin is a modern historian and all of her work shares questions of identity and its cultural formations in the 20th Century.

She co-edited and contributed to Moments of Modernity: Reconstructing Britain, 1945-1951 while still a PhD student. That volume combined social and political history, thinking through what modernity meant for post-war Britain. In The Autobiography of a Nation: The 1951 Festival of Britain, she used the 1951 events across the UK as a prism through which to analyse a society and a government recasting national identity after WWII. Then, initially under the auspices of the AHRB-funded, 'Fashion and Modernity' project, she worked on Lee Miller. Miller participated in key circles of modern art in New York, Paris and London, as a photographer, artist, model, gourmet and surrealist hostess. Miller was employed by Vogue, first as model and then as photographer and war correspondent, for the majority of her 25-year career.

Becky co-edited the special 10th anniversary Fashion Theory (March/June, 2006), dedicated to Vogue magazine and wrote on Miller there. Uncharacteristically, for an academic journal, that issue was mentioned in 'In Vogue' and received positive reviews in two UK weekend broadsheets. She has spoken on Miller in Berkeley, Paris, Florence, Philadelphia, Toronto, Cambridge and London and her work on Miller has been quoted in Numero. She is currently embarking on her second monograph, 'Model Girls' in 1950s London & Paris: Gendered Identities and Employment, for which she has received a British Academy Fellowship and she holds a Leverhulme Trust Grant for this project. She has held fellowships at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, CRASSH at the University of Cambridge, and the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris.

Publisher/Broadcaster/Company: Berg
Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > London College of Fashion
Research Centres No Longer Active > Fashion, The Body And Material Cultures Research Centre (FBMC)
Date: 2005
Funders: AHRB
Related Websites: http://www.fashion.arts.ac.uk/becky-conekin.htm
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Date Deposited: 02 Dec 2009 22:21
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2010 09:05
Item ID: 1728
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/1728

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