AbstractsLanguage, Literature & Linguistics

Counting bodies: the untempered spaces of Mina Loy

by Jacinta Kelly

Institution: University of New South Wales
Department: Arts and Media
Year: 2015
Keywords: Modernism; Mina Loy; Bergson; Poetry; Manuscripts
Record ID: 1058205
Full text PDF: http://handle.unsw.edu.au/1959.4/54296


This dissertation takes as its starting point the centrality of Mina Loy to modernism, and argues that the modernist conceptualisation of movement, inextricable from the work of philosopher Henri Bergson, sits at the heart of her work and significance. It contributes not only to existing Loy scholarship, but also to criticism that examines Bergson’s impact on literary modernism. Loy scholars frequently acknowledge Bergson’s influence on Loy’s work; yet, little has been done to probe the effects of this influence. I propose that a key component of Bergson’s importance to Loy lies in the connections he draws between movement and free will. My approach to Loy’s work in terms of mobility enables a reading of the complex and ostensibly contradictory facets of her work. In order to demonstrate these connections, I consider a range of Loy’s poetry, prose, essays and inventions from across her career, both published and unpublished. My examination of Loy’s manuscripts alongside her published texts reveals the persistence of her interest in embodied movement and its interconnection with technology, space and temporality. Firstly, I argue that Loy’s early engagement with Bergson, and his insistence on flux over spatiality and stasis, offers a productive counterpoint to the limits imposed by both the domestic home and the static, inert female body of Futurism. Further, this engagement radically inflects the way in which Loy experiments with language and text. She produces texts that deliberately dismantle their own limits by spilling into their own margins or by complicating the ready distinction between poetic space and the external world of its poet. Next I examine how she deploys mobility to trouble the inherent limits of the organic body, the temporal body, the machine-body and the atomic body, and therefore how she navigates the rapidly changing technosphere of the early twentieth century. This dissertation thus also makes a contribution to the recent inquiries of New Modernist Studies, in particular, the role of embodiment, gender, and technology in literary production.