Critic, Reader, Fan: Modernism and Textual Poaching in H.D., Mina Loy and Gertrude Stein
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Textual poaching, to use Henry Jenkins’ now-famous terminology, is the realm of the nomad. This figure, this potential author, has no voice within the canon in which they are heavily invested, and thus transforms that canon to create a space a space of their own. Although in recent decades, fan culture and studies have found their way into academia, there is nonetheless a sense of the fan as an idle (idol) worshipper, an admirer on the sidelines of genius. Studies have largely focused on the effect these “hysterical” factions of fans have had on the writer-genius; at best, the phenomenon of the literary fan has been considered a matter of curation. But such discussions ignore fan behavior as a culture, a space of extended and organized discussion and intellectual design. And as Jenkins, Hall and others have pointed out, these pockets of discussion dedicated to transformative work have long had direct ties with the far more lucrative professional world, making fan culture, with its challenges to canonicity and authorial intention, not dissimilar to the communities created and kept by their literary counterparts. My dissertation argues that the fan/author relationship, with its influence on poaching and on the troubling of the author-function, can be traced through the early twentieth century and modernism’s anxious relationship with celebrity. While authors like Lawrence Rainey, Andrea Huyssen, and Loren Glass have all suggested that modernism’s best-known authors suffered from a fear of losing control of their own authorial power, I argue that what truly drives the troubled relationship with celebrity shared by so many of the most successful modernists was an anxiety towards the feminized masses, and their own unease at the growing power imbued upon this (perceived) audience by an increasingly globalizing mass market and media culture. Moving away from a more traditional emphasis on the “rock stars” of modernism and their fears, then, I turn towards Modernism’s poachers. In doing so I focus on a selection of authors, all women, whose space within modernism’s innermost circles were often delegated to that of audience, protégée, and mentee. Cast into a liminal relationship that placed them at arms’ length from the tradition and canons that modernism so heavily valued, these authors – Moore, Woolf, H.D., Loy, and Stein -- drew from, curated and transformed canon using everything from the most esoteric of Poundian movements to the most ubiquitous of popular culture to create for themselves a space of their own: a version of modernism that embraced the convolutions of mass culture, with its social and commercial tensions. In the process, they redefined the very notion of canonicity as a means of reading through and understanding their own, often complicated relationship to the movements of which they were part. In this way, my dissertation not only challenges how academia reads and understands transformative work as a literary project, but builds upon the turn towards celebrity in modernist studies by challenging the naturalizing of a divide between “mass” and “literary” work as a symptom of a fabricated canon.
- English