Mosaic of Fire: The Work of Lola Ridge, Evelyn Scott, Charlotte Wilder, and Kay Boyle

Mosaic of Fire: The Work of Lola Ridge, Evelyn Scott, Charlotte Wilder, and Kay Boyle

Mosaic of Fire: The Work of Lola Ridge, Evelyn Scott, Charlotte Wilder, and Kay Boyle

Mosaic of Fire: The Work of Lola Ridge, Evelyn Scott, Charlotte Wilder, and Kay Boyle

Synopsis

Mosaic of Fire examines the personal and artistic interactions of four innovative American modernist women writers--Lola Ridge, Evelyn Scott, Charlotte Wilder, and Kay Boyle--all active in the Greenwich Village cultural milieu of the first half of the twentieth century. Caroline Maun traces the mutually constructive, mentoring relationships through which these writers fostered each other's artistic endeavors and highlights the ways in which their lives and works illustrate issues common to women writers of the modernist era.
The feminist vision of poet-activist and editor Lola Ridge led her to form friendships with women writers of considerable talent, influencing this circle with the aesthetic and feminist principles outlined in her 1919 lecture, "Woman and the Creative Will." Ridge first encountered the work of Evelyn Scott when she accepted several of Scott's poems for publication in Others, and wrote a favorable review of her novel The Narrow House. Ridge also took notice of novice writer Kay Boyle shortly after Boyle's arrival in New York, hiring Boyle as an assistant at Broom. Almost a decade later, Scott introduced poet Charlotte Wilder to Ridge, inaugurating a sustaining friendship between the two.
Mosaic of Fire examines how each of these writers was energized by the aesthetic innovations that characterized the modernist period and how each was also attentive to her writing as a method to encourage social change. Maun maps the ebb and flow of their friendships and careers, documenting the sometimes unequal nature of support and affection across this group of talented women artists.

Excerpt

This book investigates the literary writings and friendships of a group of American women modernists during a period when their interactions and productivity were highest. For many readers Lola Ridge, Evelyn Scott, Charlotte Wilder, and Kay Boyle remain obscure. All of them were fearless in their artistic vocations.

These writers’ lives and work intersected at various times in New York’s Greenwich Village during the 1920s, 1930s, and early 1940s, and their contact was extended through letters and visits. This book is a study of the life span of a social network embedded in broader networks that may be more familiar in narratives of modernism. In examining the writing lives, poetry, and friendships of Lola Ridge, Evelyn Scott, Charlotte Wilder, and Kay Boyle, each of whom participated in the major currents of modern American literature early in their careers, one finds they cohere as members of a network of women authors who primarily thought of themselves as professional writers, who sought to grapple with major social issues in their poetry, and who had direct, personal connections with each other that advanced their careers as writers.

Aesthetically they are linked in their use of personal voice, in their use of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction as platforms to address social justice, and in their tendencies to employ modern, experimental artistic forms in their work. Ridge, Scott, Wilder, and Boyle negotiated paths from Imagism in the early periods of their careers toward alternative aesthetics as they matured, with Ridge Scott, and Wilder moving from free verse toward more formal poetry. While each had an individual trajectory through modernism, with considerable variety in their relationships and in their politics, this study shows how they grew individually and together within the framework of the professional publishing arena and grappled with modernist issues such as machine-age industry, individualism, and depersonalization. They all faced economic hardship for choosing to be professional writers, encountered challenges to their . . .

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