This dissertation reconsiders the problem of “origins” in Modernist poetry by examining metaphors of creation and procreation. While the Modernist “mythos” of creation privileges the textual “brainchildren” created by man over the bodies procreated by woman, Modern poetry cannot escape the metaphorical vehicle that carries Modern man’s poetic “pregnancy.” Chapter One traces poetic “pregnancy” in the work of W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, D.H. Lawrence, and Sigmund Freud. These Moderns model the poetic parturition of Philip Sidney’s “Astrophil and Stella,” whose author, “great with child to speak,” delivers his creative “brainchild” through the “Caesarian” of poetic apostrophe. Against a mythos of creation that obviates her body, we turn to consider the work of Mina Loy and H.D., two poets who center the origins of Modernism in the Modern woman’s body. Woman’s double parturition of children and “brainchildren” fulfils Pound’s command to “Make It New” in a way that Pound could not, and Chapter Two considers Loy’s argument that woman’s propensity to both create and procreate marks both her creative primacy and her fundamental inequality with man. As Chapter Three expounds, Loy’s conception of woman’s doubled “genius” is centered in the cervix, and resists man’s attempts to rarefy creation from the “cosmos of agony” of woman’s body. H.D., too, narrates woman’s creativity at the center of Modernism, and Chapter Four examines the symbolic equivalence between war-making and child-making among authors of the Great War. H.D. narrates woman at the nexus of myth and history, and as we see in Chapter Five, woman bears myth into being through both the womb and the “vision of the womb” that guides her pen. Loy and H.D. offer a heuristic of reading and living myth that centers woman’s doubly creative body at the origin of poetry and of life—that historically specific woman performs the hard work of birthing poetry, people, and, in H.D.’s words, “herself in herself trying to be born” allows her to impose her own creative terms on myth’s demands.
Table of Contents
Poetry, Pregnancy, and the “Birth” of Modernism 24
Part II: Mina Loy
“Prettily Miscalculate / Similitude”: Mina Loy’s Maternal Manifestoes 79
“Mother I Am”: Mina Loy’s Irate Pornography 116
Part III: H.D.
“Khaki Killed It”: H.D.’s Madrigal on the Home Front 158
“Herself Perfect”: H.D.’s Parthenogenetic Poetics 200
About this Dissertation
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