Thoughts (7/8)

Like Lily, I thought I would take this week to write out thoughts and ideas I have collected over the semester. Again and again, I am struck by the roles women played in developing modernist periodicals. Dora Marsden, Harriet Weaver Shaw, HD--all women at the forefront, all contributing to ideas of modernity and progression. Yet despite their time, money, and effort, modernism is still very much a discussion about men. Wyndham Lewis did something unexpected with Blast; Man Ray provoked conversation about what a movie can do to remind its audience that film is a part of art in The Starfish; and Ezra Pound is the man who cannot be forgotten. But what about the women?

The Freewoman, The New Freewoman, and The Egoist were not my most favorite reads--but was Dora Marsden not a pioneer in opening discussion about the new social taboos? If this is to be ignored, then what about Marsden's own contributions to a growing sense of nationalist thought in modernism? Certainly The Egoist--influenced by the all-present Ezra Pound--had a similar desire for or at least relation to British culture that made Blast (published one month after The Egoist) known for its harder stance on modernism.

Should the movies be discounted? By MacPherson and Man Ray's definitions, certainly not. Yet H.D.'s role--like the role of the woman in The Starfish--in Borderline is to be a pale reminder of sexual interest. H.D. plays a woman who is scorned because her husband or partner has lost interest in her; not even her knife choreography is seductively dangerous because she has lost that power. Instead, H.D.'s character is a woman who is emotional--and this characterization of emotional is easily read as having caused her death and having incited something in the townspeople that is then directed at Pete and Adah. Perhaps H.D. had only intended to enjoy the artistic aspect of this role--or perhaps there was something subversive in Adah I cannot see. In any case, the movie left me again wondering what else there was?

In case anyone else feels the same, there are women directors of films. Alice Guy-Blanche was actually the first female director that is known; her work dates to the late nineteenth and early twenthieth centuries. I cannot promise her work is good or worthy because I have not watched it, but it is at least something to watch or consider if, like me, anyone else has found an interest in seeing how women artists both presented themselves and their art in the twentieth century.


Hi Mikala! I feel similarly about the extraordinary women of modernism. So much attention is paid even to "the men of 1914,"—Wyndham Lewis, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and James Joyce. The phrase itself was actually a retrospective, revisionist marketing ploy invented by Lewis himself. There was no secret Justice Leage of modernists who called themselves "The Men of 1914." I'd add also Jane Heap and Margaret Anderson, who faced jail time for serializing Ulysses in The Little Review. Anderson was actually pissed she didn't go to jail, because it would have legimized her mission. Professor Latham and I wrote a little something about it here:


I often find myself wondering the same thing, particularly when Gertrude Stein comes up. With so many women who were integral to the modernist movement, such as the names you mentioned, why is it that the name that has stood the test of historical memory is Gertrude Stein. Sure, she was prolific in her contributions, but so were the other women that you mentioned. My best guess, and surely it is a poor one, is that, from my understanding of Stein, she is portrayed almost as being "one of the boys." Her social interactions, brashness, and unwillingness to take shit come across as masculine (although I hate sorting personality traits in this way--I am merely thinking of genders as they were socially constructed in this time). Am I right? Maybe. Maybe I am entirely off-base. However, I have not yet heard a compelling argument why others would be left out while she is left in. I'm open to hearing alternatives!