Making Love Modern: The Intimate Public Worlds of New York's Literary Women

By Nina Miller | Go to book overview

Afterword

The power of the metropolitan development is not to be denied. The excitements and challenges of its intricate processes of liberation and alienation, contact and strangeness, stimulation and standardization, are still powerfully available. But it should no longer be possible to present these specific and traceable processes as if they were universals, not only in history but as it were above and beyond it.

Raymond Williams, The Politics of Modernism

My original interest in modernist women love poets was probably motivated by a form of what Carla Kaplan has identified as feminist "heroics": a critic's fantasy, in which "misunderstood, abandoned, neglected women" (lost writers) are "finally rescued and released by their stronger, bolder daughters" (contemporary feminists). 1 I chose Millay, Taggard, Parker, Bennett, and Johnson precisely for the challenge they presented to all the categories of significance--literary and political--with which I was familiar. Relying at least partly on the sheer heft of historical detail, I set about dignifying my women (on both literary and political grounds) by casting their writing within the framework of literary "negotiation." My idea was to show the complex tensions that structured even the most apparently quiescent text and writerly consciousness. My point would be that we should respect these women's negotiations because they did not enjoy our freedom from contradiction.

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