Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation explores Loy’s interest in the “woman’s cause” to interrogate how the poet was recaptured as an early feminist figure by the academy. After Virginia Kouidis “rediscovered” Loy’s work in the 1980s, the poet has been consistently drafted as a central feminist figure despite her lack of commitment to organized feminist movements of her time. This retrospective lens offers a catachrestic view of Loy’s feminism. I use “catachresis” to refer to the slightly inaccurate use of “feminism,” tinted by current perceptions of the term, but also to hint at Loy’s capacious feminine poetics. While the rise of feminist theories in modernist studies has deplored the period’s rejection of the female Other, Loy’s poems define women’s identity through the liberating dialogue with otherness. I draw on Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity and textual studies to engage with how Loy’s conception of the page as the space of feminine intimacy and otherness cements her as a multifaceted woman modernist and a model for contemporary modernist studies. I open my analysis with Loy’s contentious “Feminist Manifesto” to understand the framework the poet associates with feminism. I discuss the manifesto as an aesthetic document that seemingly only performs vague demands for political and social reforms but rhetorically asserts women’s marginal status as the ideal artistic identity. Her resistance to traditional reading patterns and gender topoi disturbs the poetic fabric and predicates textual creation on alienation. This leads me to the question of Loy’s publication history and editing practices: the field of Loy’s studies is mostly developed by women yet Loy’s voice has been consistently mediated by men. This dissertation scrutinizes Loy’s archives to propose editing techniques that foster Loy’s feminist resistance. The last chapter takes stock of the modernist anxieties with gender Loy seems to use to draw parallels between Loy’s feminist intentions and that of instapoets. Such a comparison sheds light on the situated nature of Loy’s feminism and her engagement with modernist notions of authorship.
Summary for Lay Audience
This dissertation examines instances of feminism in the work of British poet Mina Loy (1882-1966). Loy is often considered a prominent feminist figure of the early twentieth century among scholars despite her lack of commitment to the feminist movement as established at the time. This study opens on the contents of Loy’s seminal “Feminist Manifesto” – a radical text affirming that women’s liberation starts with the surgical removal of the hymen – and suggests that the document is more involved in discussing the status of the woman artist than actual complaints and demands formulated by Suffragettes, and British first wave feminism as a whole. The next few chapters are then invested in the ways Loy’s feminism develops outside the bounds of the feminist movement. The poet portrays femininity and womanhood through the tension between intimacy and otherness, which is particularly noticeable in the way bodies are described throughout the poems. The body is not only an object, prisoner of the other’s gaze, but also a powerful tool to create. The importance of embodiment in Loy’s oeuvre cannot be reduced to the construction of the poems: the practice of rediscovering the poems and making them available to the public implies a movement toward the handwritten drafts of the poet’s texts and the chaotic bodily nature of archives. Diving into archival materials to make sure that the poet’s voice remains authoritative is a feminist practice in itself, which points at the significance of the medium. The dissertation closes on an exploration of how Loy’s feminist techniques are reused, to this day, in other poetic media. For this last part, the analysis is centered on poetry produced by women on one specific platform: Instagram. Investigating Loy’s poetry in close connection to current platform poetry is not only helpful to shed light on the friendship rhetoric of the application, but also to examine Loy’s fundamentally multimedia poetry.
Ottavino, Elise, "Capacious Feminism: Intimacy and Otherness in Mina Loy's Poetry" (2023). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 9739.