ESSE Doctoral Symposium, Thessaloniki, Greece, 28 - 29 August 2017, pp.26
The British avant-garde poet and artist Mina Loy (1882-1966) emerges as an extravagant and revolutionary figure illuminating the social and political concerns of the early modernist period. Her works address issues of gender, stereotypical images of women, the female body, and sexuality. She is associated with various artistic movements, such as Surrealism, Dada and particularly Futurism, the Italian movement launched with Filippo Tommaso Marinetti’s “Futurist Manifesto” in 1909. The Futurists’ declarations reject the past, its nostalgia and artistic and political traditions, and call for the destruction of institutions which preserve these traditions, such as libraries, museums and academies. Embracing ideas of dynamism, technology and war, the futurists generally fantasize a womanless world, and aggressively attack feminism and moralism.
This dissertation will explore how Mina Loy’s poetic works deal with the concept of gender to problematize the ideas of Futurism, and examine the paradoxical relations between her works and the artistic movements of the early twentieth century, particularly Futurism and Surrealism. The study will focus on issues of authorship and the function of Loy’s narrative voice (with reference to Barthes and Foucault), and also engage with various concepts of “feminine writing”through the theoretical work of such writers as Cixous, Irigaray, Kristeva, Ettinger and Pollock.
The first chapter, “Lions’ Jaws,” (1914) analysed Loy’s experimental poem, in which the narrative voice refers to male Futurist manifestos and three Italian male futurists, in four thematic sections. This analysis reveals that the narrator situates herself between both male and female characterizations, and addresses the “ideal reader” by multiplying herself to problematize the stereotyping gaze of the male futurists. In the second chapter, (currently in progress), Loy’s idiosyncratic prose- poem, “Feminist Manifesto,” (1914) presumably written as a response to Marinetti’s “Futurist Manifesto,” is being examined to explore the shifting voice of the futurist- feminist persona as it replaces the “futurist” voice of the narrator with a “feminist” one. It appears that the manifesto addresses women to galvanize them against the subordinate position of women in society by declaring men and women as “not equal” but “enemies”; and it critiques this position as a complex product of both culturally embedded male misogyny and women’s self-perceptions.