The Age Of Light
Whitney Scharer
Contributed by Elene Blackwelder
Context

Author’s Biography

Whitney Scharer attended Wesleyan University where she graduated with a BA. She also holds an MFA from the University of Washington where she studied Creative Writing. Scharer wrote The Age of Light two years after researching about Lee Miller. Her fascination with Lee started when she found out that, despite her talent, she had remained under the shadow of Man Ray’s accomplishment. As such, she had never been credited for the discovery of radical photography techniques that influenced the artistry of photography. This novel is, therefore, a fictional piece based on the history of Lee Miller and Man Ray. Although Scharer reimagines the relationship to make the plot more interesting, she is keen on maintaining the genuine nature of the main character’s history. This was one of the factors she considered when she was choosing a suitable publisher from all the bidders (Canfield, 2017). Once the book was published, the well-researched, sensuous work of Scharer was reviewed by the Bellevue Literary Review and Cimarron Review (“Whitney Scharer”, 2019). This earned Scharer several awards including the St. Botolph Club Foundation’s Emerging Artist in Literature. In addition, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts awarded her with a residency. Although The Age of Light is only her first novel, Scharer asserts her position among the best emerging fictional authors who are iconic for promoting feminism (Nicolaou, 2019).

Context

The novel is written in the setting of World War II. The main point addressed by the author is the misogyny that women experienced before the war. Scharer promotes feminism by highlighting a period in history when women took up men’s positions in jobs that society had deemed inappropriate for them. For instance, women started working in factories and joined the war to serve as soldiers. In the same way, the author intends on promoting feminism through the main character. To achieve this, Lee is initially portrayed as a fragile model. However, with her experiences of ill-treatment from men, she gets hardened and becomes a war correspondent. The title, The Age of Light, therefore alludes to how the ambitious Lee Miller is brought out of the shadow of Man Ray to have her position asserted in the world of photography. Other artists that are brought out of the shadows of men include Claude and Ilse.

Lee, Claude, and Ilse are talented artists that men are hesitant to accept in their circles. Instead, the Parisian artists objectified them, and treated them as trophies to be marveled at for their beauty. Furthermore, the author shows that the works of Lee, Claude, and Ilse were rejected because they were discriminated against by men. However, through their hard work, the female characters get to earn their place in the arts, with Ilse and Claude gaining the opportunity to hold their own art exhibit. This proves that women do not have to work in the shadows of men to gain recognition. The novel is, therefore, written for women — with Scharer seeking to encourage her readers to challenge the sexist stereotypes that demean the women of today.

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