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The Metro of Modernity: Queer Women's Poetics

Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

Modernism has traditionally been viewed as the zenith of White male genius, even though the forms that have marked the period’s innovation were largely created by women, and especially queer women and queer women of color. Examining poetry in particular provides a unique opportunity to understand the fluidity of the modernist period not only in regards to its kaleidoscopic forms and innovations but also in relation to its burgeoning alternate sexualities and gender expressions in art and literature. This dissertation is a restorative project that refocuses a handful of queer modernist women poets toward the center of a canon that has historically left them on the margins due to their gender, sexuality, race, and/or because their work has been considered too vulgar or eccentric. H.D., Angelina Weld Grimké, Djuna Barnes, and Hope Mirrlees are part of what I call the “metro of modernity,” which is a mode of alternative modernist production that emphasizes women’s artistic or creative labor rather than their biological function. I argue that “metro,” a compounded word denoting the city, the subway, poetic verse, and etymologically the womb or mother, is the mode through which these queer poets navigate and create modernity.

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