Technologies of Domesticity

This project investigates the postwar representation of domestic technology in the Women’s Magazine Archive, a corpus of 20th century women’s magazines, looking at fiction, advertisements, and articles from 1945 to 1975.

While the connection between fiction and the 20th Century’s changing technologies of communication and transportation has been the subject of extended scholarship, including some of the work that has emerged from the Literary Lab, this project brings the same questions into the home. We focus on household appliances because the common but specific terminology surrounding them enables us to get at larger questions about labor, gender, and ideologies thereof during a key period for their reconfiguration. Using sentence-level MDWs, word embeddings, and dependency parsing, we explore questions like: How does the domestic discourse of “modern conveniences” appear in magazine fiction aimed at women? Who works with appliances and how? Which new appliances appear in fiction, and how are they presented? What is the relationship between articles on advances in domestic technology, the advertising that sold those appliances, and fiction that represents the appliances that resulted from those advances, particularly when all appear side by side in the same publication?

Technologies of Domesticity is a project of the Literary Lab.