Date of Award

5-2006

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

Advisor

Steven Evans

Second Committee Member

Carla Billitteri

Third Committee Member

Laura Cowan

Abstract

The early writings of poet and painter Mina Loy (1882-1966) have received some scholarly attention, usually in reference to feminism or Loy's connection to Italian Futurism. This study engages gender and feminist theory as its starting point and is particularly interested in two elements of Loy's work: her treatment of the gaze and the metaphors of temporality and spatiality engaged throughout her work. Loy's framing of the gaze reveals the tension between the shifting subjectivity of her narrators and their attempts to maintain a unified self The narrators in Loy's work who appear to be the most individuated, and the most forceful, are also the most unstable. These speakers (such as that of "The Feminist Manifesto" and "The Effectual Marriage") have difficulty delineating boundaries between themselves and their objects of study, and they are often implicated by the unindividuated women they narrate. Other narrators in Loy's work (such as that of "Virgins Plus Curtains Minus Dots" and "The Sacred Prostitute") reference the power of the male gaze although these works also subtly comment on the way in which women play a complicit role in their own subjugation. Loy's strongest portrait of a developed female consciousness ("Parturition") reveals that a loss of self-control, not entirely dissimilar from the one experienced by the narrators of "The Feminist Manifesto" and "The Effectual Marriage," is necessary for consciousness to be reconfigured. Attempts to control the consciousness of others, as seen in "Virgins Plus Curtains Minus Dots" and "The Effectual Marriage," are thereby destined to fail. Thus Loy's narrators make futile attempts to manipulate the consciousness of Loy's female personae through the framing of the gaze. Loy's poetic project is one that focuses on the development of the self although a great deal of effort in her early writings is spent on granting others the opportunity to redevelop their own consciousness. This focus can be seen in both Loy's framing of the gaze and in her imagery of time and space. Both the gaze and time often function as normative and heterosexual frameworks. But while the gaze can be appropriated, time and space are outside the control of either women or men, despite the fact that the male figures in Loy's poems often operate as if they can control time. While this illusion of control is itself problematic, the real difficulty occurs when women are willing to unify social and material time by embodying the demands that men make of them. Mina Loy's early writings contain many examples of the problematic normativity pursued by women but Loy offers only one example of a developed female consciousness ("Parturition"). This reveals both her frustration with the women of her era and also the limitations of h y 7 s vision. While Mina Loy is adept at critiquing normativity, she offers no real vision of what an alternative to the norm might look like.

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