Mina Loy’s “Brancusi’s Golden Bird” and Valery Larbaud’s “The ‘Ulysses’ of James Joyce” from the November 1922 issue of The Dial and the October 1922 issue of The Criterion – respectively – embody a similar discourse to Eliot’s The Waste Land in their focus on generic experimentation and emphasis on interaction. Eliot’s work, by including footnotes written by the poet, embodies generic experimentation as The Waste Land is thus composed of the interaction between poem and prose descriptions. Loy’s poem, by focusing on “The immaculate / conception / of the inaudible bird” (508), alludes to generic experimentation through the simultaneous descriptive and expository depictions of the sculpture. This experimentation inherent in these dual approaches to the sculpture is further compounded by the picture of the sculpture that immediately follows the poem, which undermines the autonomy of the poem as the reader/viewer is forced with the juxtaposition of two works of different genres that mutually inform each other. Larbaud’s essay from The Criterion praises Joyce’s inclusion of theological, philosophic, and scientific discourse within his narrative that challenges notions of the novel. In spite of this experimentation, Larbaud asserts that “[t]hese pieces, which we might treat as digressions, or rather as appendices, essays composed outside of the book and artificially interpolated into all of the ‘tales,’ … [form] none the less an organism, a book” (97). Much like The Waste Land and Loy’s “Brancusi’s Golden Bird,” Larbaud’s appraisal of Joyce’s work finds its locus in his ability to challenge conceived notions of the genre, what Loy refers to as the “the Alpha and Omega / of Form” (507).
Along with this emphasis on experimentation, the pieces of Loy and Larbaud also contribute to a discourse surrounding the necessity of interaction. In the simultaneous presence of dichotomous entities (past/present, life/death, poetry/prose, East/West, etc.), The Waste Land calls direct attention to the manner through which these are not binaries, but rather in a state of interaction as a means through which to conceive of a post-WWI world. Loy focuses the readers attention on this interaction in her explication that “This gong / of polished hyperaesthesia / shrills with brass / as the aggressive light / strikes / its significance” (507-8). For Loy, meaning arises from Brancusi’s sculpture in its interaction with its physical environment, which is embodied in the light in this depiction. This emphasis on interaction is also present in the bibliographic coding of the poem, which – as previously mentioned – juxtaposes the poem with a photograph of its subject. Larbaud also contributes to the discourse regarding interaction when she asserts that “The reader who approaches [Ulysses] without the Odyssey clearly in mind will be thrown into dismay. I refer, of course, to the cultivated reader” (93). As with Loy, Larbaud makes note of two interactions – that of Joyce’s text with Homer’s Odyssey and an ideal reader with the text – that are essential in the comprehension of the text.
A significant distinction in the simultaneous publications of The Waste Land is the volume number of the respective magazines, which creates a variance in the positioning of Eliot’s text. Created by the American Transcendentalists, The Dial is oriented as actively engaging with the discourse surrounding the foundation of the American literary tradition. Published in The Dial’s seventy-third volume, The Waste Land emerges as a continuation of this American literary tradition. Unlike this connection to a broader arch of national literary tradition, the simultaneous publication of The Waste Land in the first issue of The Criterion denotes a connection of the work with an emerging literary tradition. This play between established and emerging literary traditions is particularly interesting when though of in regards to notions of modernism as Transatlantic.