an e-newsletter
Summer 2008
Number 2


Welcome to the second issue of HD's Web! You will see from the table of contents that this issue contains a work-in-progress article and a short biography of HD's father. The deadline for the call for papers by the Journal of Cultural and Religious Theory has passed, but the CFP is included here so that readers may keep an eye out for the forthcoming special issue on HD and religion in the context of material culture. And in addition to information about this year's conferences, just for fun, you'll find the schedule from one several years past: the "Lost Measure" conference in Bethlehem, PA.

As you know, a newsletter depends on contributors. If you have something you think other readers of HD may find of interest, please send it in. (See the HD's Web homepage for more details.) It is not necessary to be a professional academic (or one in training) to submit a piece. Please note that articles should include some form of documentation of sources used in the article. In this way interested readers can follow up on your work and consult your sources. (I have tried to make bibliographic references clear even to those who may not be literature professors.)

This spring I had the pleasure of teaching a course called Greek Tragedy and Its Influence. One of the texts studied was HD's play, Hippolytus Temporizes (1927). A group of students presented a project highlighting HD's deliberate confusing of identities in the play: parts were identified with costumes, rather than characters, and all three students (two female, one male) took their turn portraying Artemis, Phaedra, Hippolytus, and Helios. They photographed themselves and presented a slide show, reading the script live. It was an imaginative and perceptive presentation. The next class, I brought in images from the "H.D. Scrapbook" to show them that H.D. had also found it interesting to create posed and stylized images. [Diane Collecott, "Images at the Crossroads: The 'H.D. Scrapbook,'" in H.D.: Woman and Poet, ed. Michael King (Orono, ME: National Poetry Foundation, 1986) pp. 319-367.] One student, a good poet herself, looked at them and said, "That's one of the reasons I like H.D. She's fun." Keeping in mind, therefore, that pleasure is one of the rewards of poetry, here are two passages from HD's work. I live in Florida, so an excerpt from HD's poem, "Heat" (Selected Poems, 1957) seems appropriate at this season:

Fruit cannot drop
through this thick air-
fruit cannot fall into heat
that presses up and blunts
the points of pears
and rounds the grapes.

And I also offer these lines from Trilogy (1946, "The Flowering of the Rod," section 9), which make me think of Coleridge's Xanadu, Dickinson's consciousness of self, and Moore's small but persistent animals:

No poetic fantasy
but a biological reality,

a fact: I am an entity
like bird, insect, plant

or sea-plant cell;
I live; I am alive;

take care, do not know me,
deny me, do not recognise me,
is infectious-ecstasy.

As always: This newsletter is (in its own small way) for the development and free exchange of knowledge, and we do not desire to pressure anyone to post anything they are not ready to publish here, for whatever reason. In fact, if we have posted something of yours from the H.D. Society List archive that you would prefer not be in this forum, please let us know, and we will remove it. If there are errors, please let us know.

Best wishes for a pleasant summer and a fruitful fall.
Maria Stadter Fox

"H.D., Materialist?: Trilogy's Place in the Modernist Long Poem Genre"
Georgia Kreiger
Allegany College of Maryland
The author invites comments helpful to preparation for submission to a peer-reviewed journal.

H.D., Materialist?: Trilogy's Place in the Modernist Long Poem Genre

H.D. continues to be renamed and redefined. Since Ezra Pound first claimed invention of his paradigmatic "imagiste," other titles have been offered in an effort to capture the essence of the poet's work. She has been dubbed the inveterate Decadent-Romantic (Kibble, Laity), the spearheading Sapphic Modernist (Collecott), the creator of a pornopoeia, a re-vitalized modern erotic language (Chisholm). Michael Kaufman repositions Hilda Doolittle as the actual inventor of the imagist form around which Pound shaped his eclipsing body of theory. Others, like Lawrence Rainey, place the poet's work at the forgettable margins of the Modernist canon. Since the posthumous publication of her extended oeuvre during the latter half of the twentieth century, feminist and other critics continue to add names and accolades to the ambiguous signature H.D., following various politically-interested quests to recover, revise, and finally to characterize adequately this Modernist woman writer.

Part of the complication in assigning a definition to H.D. lies in the fact that her work spans decades and genres; she actually embodies many artists who represent a number of evolving interests over time. I want to focus on her later work as a poet--as a pioneer, in fact--of a women's American long poem genre. Susan Stanford Friedman defines the long poem as a "big" poem, one that takes on historical, metaphysical, and aesthetic issues and asks the perennially unanswerable questions ("When the 'Long' Poem" 11). Women writers, suggests Friedman, approach the long poem genre, which adapts its form from the exclusively masculinist epic, as outsiders. They assume the role of "satiric Other" to male long-poem-writers, creating "big-long poems whose gender-inflections make them somehow different from the dominant examples of the genre" (13-14).

As a founding example of the women's long poem sub-genre, H.D.'s Trilogy assumes proportions reminiscent of the epic, set as it is within the cultural turmoil of World War II. And it does not fail to address the big questions that are requisite of the genre. Although she characterizes women's long poems as necessarily voiced from the outside, at the canonical margins, Friedman nevertheless locates Trilogy "squarely in the center of [the] modernist mainstream," alongside Pound's Cantos, Eliot's The Waste Land, Crane's The Bridge, and Williams' Patterson. H.D.'s poem shares with those of her male contemporaries a quest theme that expresses itself in mythic and religious terms (Psyche Reborn 5). Gertrude Reif Hughes prefers to re-position the poem within the bounds of a protesting margin, characterizing the work as one of feminist resistance and revision (376). Others, in contrast, find an ill-fit between Trilogy and the male-authored poems, citing its relative heady optimism and its lack of continued cultural relevance as justification for its marginalization (Rainey 10-12).

Like its author, Trilogy continues to be re-considered and re-critiqued, most recently for its representation of feminine spiritual and aesthetic power and its underlying condemnation of masculinist philosophy and politics. Biographers Rachel DuPlessis and Diana Collecott have championed H.D. for her contribution to feminist and lesbian interests. DuPlessis finds in Trilogy "the emergence . . . of massive female symbols, resolutions and myths, of women-identified quests, and of female heroes who act in narratives making explicit critique of phallocentric culture" (76).

Although the poem is clearly readable as a feminist manifesto, whether spoken from the center or from the margins of the late Modernist movement, I want to turn attention temporarily away from its feminist core leanings. Trilogy speaks directly to H.D.'s relationship with Freud in the 1930's, an extended interchange that is further elucidated in her contiguously-written memoir Tribute to Freud, which functions ideally as a companion piece to the poem. H.D.'s comment in Tribute that "the Professor" was "not always right" (18) signals H.D.'s discursive treatment of a central conflict that emerges between the two, a conflict upon which both the memoir and the poem are based, a conflict, finally, that embraces but is not limited to feminist concerns. Freud posed himself and his psychoanalytic theory as purveyors of a materialist epistemology that H.D. initially found illegitimate. Herself proclaiming a post-Transcendentalist "spiritual realism" (Trilogy 48) as her own epistemological stance, she opposed Freud's materialist views. A debate between these two philosophical positions becomes central to the relationship, and the conflict it inspired in H.D. is interwoven with her retrospective portrait of Freud in Tribute. The conflict likewise becomes the grounding principle for Trilogy, lending expression to some of the big questions with which this long poem deals. Of the two positions that are sounded in the poem--that of the materialist and that of the spiritual realist--Friedman explains that "[r]ejection of materialism and the consequent search for spiritual realism is the central poetic act of the Trilogy, which therefore reproduces indirectly H.D.'s dialogue with Freud and demonstrates the essential pattern of much modernist art" (Psyche Reborn 102).

If H.D.'s spiritualist perspective prevails in the contest that ensues in the pages of Trilogy, then assessments of the poem as blatantly optimistic, and therefore intrinsically different from Modernist long poems by men, may be justified. I propose a re-reading of the poem that examines closely its persistent dialogue between materialist and spiritual realist voices that echoes the disagreement between H.D. and Freud. To do so, we must set aside momentarily H.D.'s obvious feminist concerns and approach the dialogue that pervades the poem not as mirroring an exchange between a spokesperson for second-wave feminism and a card-carrying Patriarch, but between a believer in a spiritual reality whose faith grows increasingly tenuous against a background of world war, and a staunch, self-interested upholder of a materialist epistemology. Such a reading reveals that H.D's response to Freud is not one of untroubled disagreement, and that the conflict survived the decade between her psychoanalysis with Freud and the writing of Trilogy. The materialist perspective, given voice by a Freudian-inspired speaker, holds more sway in the poem than has formerly been acknowledged. Recognition of the unsettled nature of this conflict may alter dramatically our interpretation of pivotal images in the work. For if in Trilogy she does not go so far as to put on the materialist's clothes, H.D. does at least examine closely the weave of the cloth. The foregrounding of this unsettled conflict, reflecting H.D's possibly unrecoverable disillusionment in light of the war, renders the poem more similar to than different from Modernist long poems by men.

Freud versus H.D.: Is a dream a Dream?

Trilogy's credibility as even a figurative promise of a new post-war world with a new feminized theology rests on the reliability of dreams and visions to speak prophetically. The Dream of the Lady is offered as the promise of hope in a new feminized theology. One speaker in the poem, who adopts the voice of the Word and the Poet within this multi-voiced text, represents the views of a spiritual realist. This speaker holds to the belief that dreams are messages of divine origin. In "The Walls Do Not Fall" appear the lines,

Now it appears very clear
that the Holy Ghost,

childhood's mysterious enigma,
is the Dream;

that way of inspiration
is always open,

and open to everyone;
it acts as go-between and interpreter . . .

it merges the distant future
with most distant antiquity . . . (29)

The Dream, a product of the dreamer's unconscious, bears prophetic importance. It portrays events to come as it synthesizes a future unknown with fragments from antiquity. Its wisdom derives from outside the dreamer and is available to anyone who will examine its content.

When H.D. went to Freud in Vienna to undergo psychoanalysis, both acknowledged the interpretability of dreams, but the two upheld markedly different beliefs concerning the origin and nature of the dream image. As a former member of the Moravian sect in Pennsylvania, an inheritor of American Transcendentalist sensibilities, and a progenitor of Modernist artistic aesthetics, H.D. believed that the hieroglyphic language of dreams, like the verbal image created within the Imagist movement, conveyed a higher reality than the material of the observable world (Psyche Reborn 99). For her, the products of the unconscious mind were a reliable source of a higher truth that is unavailable to the physical senses. Dreams, therefore, could inspire, warn, or preview the future.

Writing of her momentous dream/vision of the Egyptian princess about which she conferred with Freud, H.D. explains: "For myself I consider this sort of dream or projected picture or vision as a sort of halfway state between ordinary dream and the vision of those who, for lack of a more definite term we must call psychics or clairvoyants" (Tribute 41). Rejecting Freud's suggestion that the vision betrayed her desire to reunite with her mother, H.D. interprets the event as an indication of her future role as a prophet. She speculates that she may found a new, much-needed, post-war religion.

Freud the materialist, on the other hand, defined dreams as strictly somatic constructions, arising within the individual from the unconscious, assembled from random impressions gathered from the recent past, emphasizing the trivial rather than the essential (Interpretation of Dreams 206). The pictorial language of dreams is infantile, regressive and archaic--a leftover subsidiary of primitive religions that had once served as mass delusions. Purveyors of psychical rather than material reality, they allow access to the individual's beliefs or delusions concerning the facts of the outside world. To believe that dreams and visions articulate a higher, spiritual reality is, in materialist terms, primitive. Freud seems to have H.D. in mind as he accounts for the continued belief in the spiritual potential of dreams in The Interpretation of Dreams:

It would be an error to suppose that the theory of the supernatural origin of dreams lacks followers even in our own times; for quite apart from pietistic and mystical writers-who cling, as they are perfectly justified in doing, to the remnant of the once predominant realm of the supernatural until these remnants have been swept away by scientific explanation-we do not infrequently find that quite intelligent persons, who in other respects are averse to anything of a romantic nature, go so far as to base their religious belief in the existence and co-operation of superhuman spiritual powers on the inexplicable nature of the phenomena of dreams. (153)
Those who rely on dreams to uphold their religious beliefs merely cling to a primitive remnant of the race's ancestry.

In Tribute to Freud, H.D. seems at times to give way to Freud's materialist conception of the dream-state. In her extended discussion of her "writing-on-the-wall" vision, she entertains possible interpretations that would render the experience a somatic event. Perhaps the vision represents "suppressed desire" for "signs and wonders," perhaps a suppressed desire "to be a Prophetess, to be important anyway," a desire Freud characterized as megalomania. Or, perhaps "this writing-on-the-wall is merely an extension of the artist's mind . . . projected from within . . ." (51). Though she tends to "cling" to the "romantic" notion that her own dreamlike experiences were comparable to those divinely inspired dreams narrated in the Bible, her interpretations of those experiences begin to merge with those of Freud. She seems to be testing a materialist position against her own inherited religious viewpoint.

In Trilogy, we find a near replication of H.D's entertainment in Tribute of the Freudian view concerning the Dream. The dream-vision of the Lady's precipitous advent forms the centerpiece of "Tribute to the Angels." The voice of Part 25 finds herself in a confused though seemingly concrete setting as she speaks:

for it was the ticking minute by minute
(the clock at my bed-head,

with its dim, luminous disc)
when the Lady knocked;

I was talking casually
with friends in the other room . . .

and she was standing there,
actually, at the turn of the stair. (89)

The speaker seems to find herself oddly in two places at once: in her room hearing the clock ticking and seeing its dim glow; and in the next room talking with friends. Such a conflation of scenes is, of course, typical of a dream. After wondering over the Lady's arrival, her presence among her and her friends, the nature of the power that conjured her, the speaker reveals,
for before I had time to speak,
I realized I had been dreaming,

that I lay awake now on my bed,
that the luminous light

was the phosphorescent face
of my little clock

and the faint ticking
was the clock ticking. (90)

H.D.'s description of the Lady's arrival alternates smoothly between the details of a real setting experienced by a wakeful mind and a dream-state image in which places and objects conjoin and become confused. In these lines, she represents skillfully the state just between wakefulness and deep sleep, just the kind of halfway state at which she supposes a supernatural vision may take place.

At the same time, however, she clearly portrays the dream-experience as a somatic event, as Freud would define it. As the speaker moves from wakefulness to sleep, elements from her physical surroundings--the clock's glow, its ticking--imprint themselves onto the dream experience. Pointedly, the speaker recognizes that, even though she is enchanted by the Lady's arrival, this event is a dream. She links the Lady's luminosity to the clock's glow, the Lady's knocking to the ticking clock. These elements of the speaker's physical setting are just the kind of trivialities of the recent past that Freud identifies as the stuff of dreams. Susan Edmunds suggests that H.D's association of the Lady with the clock allows the Lady to countermand death's imminence as it is represented by the clock's ticking off of time, offering spiritual transcendence as a means to bypass the physical life's unarguable finiteness (66). Truly, by presenting the physical elements of the glow and the ticking alternately as the Lady then as the clock, H.D. does associate the Lady with death. Ironically however, if the dream is a strictly somatic experience as it is described in the above lines, then the Lady is actually synonymous with the clock, and may therefore represent the surety of death itself, thereby conveying the inadequacy of the supernatural to afford delivery from the inevitable. When the speaker reiterates as she describes the experience that "this was a dream of course" (89), "I realized I had been dreaming"(90), she may effectively undermine any spiritual legitimacy with which the Lady might be endowed.

Later in "Tribute to the Angels," the speaker recovers the spiritual realist stance, depicting the now seemingly valid supernatural vision of the Lady as an amalgam of a number of artistic Marian representations. Two more elements of the expanded description of the vision, though, again work to undermine its legitimacy. First, the speaker marvels that "the Child was not with her" (97)--Mary bears no Christ child to distinguish her as the portal through which immortality is offered to the world. This vision of Mary does, as Friedman asserts, represent the alchemical reinvention of the divine, specifically "the divine spirit in its female manifestation as the force of Love and the power of rebirth" (Psyche Reborn 253). Simultaneously though, we can detect the sting of the materialist's critique: the Lady is barren, she carries no Child to redeem humanity and offer immortality.

Secondly, though the Lady is bereft of a Child, "she carries a book but it is not / the tome of ancient wisdom, / the pages . . . are blank pages / of the unwritten volume of the new . . ." (103). The blank pages of the Lady's book might imply infinite future possibility, the ushering in of a new age and a new religion yet to be constructed, the call for a new philosophy to be penned by the Poet. Or, in light of materialist-inspired doubts, the blankness of the pages may represent the un-determinability of the future, the unlikelihood of a resurrected, immortal life that the Child would offer.

The speaker introduces the blank book in response to the voice of an interpreter who has entered the scene of the vision. This voice offers a conventional explanation of the speaker's vision based on familiar Biblical material relating to women, perhaps echoing Freud's practical, materialist interpretations of H.D's dreams and visions:

[T]his is the new Eve who comes

clearly to return, to retrieve
what she lost the race,

given over to sin, to death;
she brings the Book of Life, obviously. (101)

The interpreter pulls the vision down to earth, explaining it in terms of the speaker's own assumed interiorization of Biblical tradition, and in terms of a presupposed feminine sense of guilt. By using the words, "clearly" and "obviously," this imposing voice simplifies the Dream, making of it the mundane and logical product of the speaker's unconscious. The interpreter further minimizes the vision, adding that,
I see her as you project her,
not out of place

flanked by Corinthian capitals,
or in a Coptic nave,

or frozen above the centre door
of a Gothic cathedral;

you have done very well by her . . . (102)

According to the interpreter, the speaker's unconscious has constructed the vision of the Lady from artistic Marian representations to which she has been exposed in the past.

This assumption nullifies the vision as a valid supernatural experience of a feminine Divine, rendering it instead a purely somatic event. In response, the speaker must then argue for the authenticity of the experience, insisting on the spiritual reality of the Lady. She is, says the speaker, "the counter-coin-side / of primitive terror"; "she is not-fear, she is not-war" (104). Tainted by the materialist's disbelief, these characterizations of the Lady pose her as the very negation of a masculinist world. Ironically, though, as negations these terms cohere to their opposites, calling attention to the very cultural maladies--primitive terror, fear, war--that the Lady has arrived to remedy. The pervasive influence of materialist thought on the speaker is evident. As she struggles to free the Dream from dismantlement by a materialist epistemology, she becomes almost confused in her frustration, answering the interpreter's claim that the vision merely reinvents the Biblical and classical renderings of the feminine with the equivocal response that it is "the same--different--the same attributes, / different yet the same as before" (105). The impact of materialist thought on the speaker is thus clearly inferred.

As we reflect on the interchange between speaker and interpreter in "Tribute to the Angels," we may discover the message of the interpreter prefigured in Freud's discussion of the function of dreams:

The dream is not comparable to the irregular sounds of a musical instrument, which, instead of being played by the hand of a musician, is struck by some external force; the dream is not meaningless, not absurd, does not presuppose that one part of our store of ideas is dormant while another part begins to awake. It is a perfectly valid psychic phenomenon, actually a wish-fulfillment; it may be enrolled in the continuity of the intelligible psychic activities of the waking state; it is built up by a highly complicated intellectual activity. (Interpretation of Dreams 176)
Freud's reductive language provides the model for the dreamer's dismissive opponent in Trilogy. H.D. observes of Freud's pragmatism concerning the dream-state that "[w]ith precise Jewish instinct for the particular in the general, for the personal in the impersonal or universal, for the material in the abstract, he had dared to plunge into the unexplored depth [of the unconscious]" (Tribute 72). This same pragmatism, according to H.D., would lead him to conclude that only "man, understanding man, would save mankind" (71). He entertained no possibility of revelation, divine intervention, or the supernatural. When the two first came together in Vienna, H.D. firmly disagreed. By the time she narrates the arrival of the Lady, she seems less sure of her own position.

The Conflict: Will We "Rise from Death and Live"?

H.D's Tribute reveals that the one point upon which she and Freud disagreed most definitively was concerning the possibility of an afterlife. In 1929, he had responded to a friend's assertion that the experience of an "oceanic" feeling upon which religious systems and belief in immortality are based is common to humankind, reporting of his own experience: "I cannot discover this 'oceanic' feeling in myself" (Civilization and Its Discontents 11). As a rationalist and materialist, Freud could entertain no possibility for which there appeared no observable evidence. He thus gives voice to the cultural malaise, based on the usurpation of religion by science in the early twentieth century, to which Modernist artists felt compelled to respond. H.D., in contrast to Freud's lack of "a feeling," admits to having "accepted as part of my racial, my religious heritage, the abstract idea of immortality . . ." She admits to worrying, therefore, over the fact that "he [Freud] had no idea--it seemed impossible--really no idea that he would 'wake up' when he shed the frail locust-husk of his years, and find himself alive" (Tribute 43). For H.D. the afterlife was an unquestioned spiritual reality. Considering the extended relationship between the two during 1933 and '34, the question poses itself: what becomes of this fundamental disagreement? Does H.D., as a patient or student (her role seems to vary in Tribute) of the "blameless physician" (xv), hold to her admittedly inherited tradition of belief in immortality? Does this belief survive to find untroubled expression within the pages of Trilogy? Or was she perhaps more profoundly influenced by the physician's founding postulate, that "[b]elief in the soul's survival, in a life after death . . . [is] the last and greatest fantasy, the gigantic wish-fulfillment . . ." (Tribute 103), than has been considered up to the present?

Trilogy, in its offering of a new, feminized theological roadmap to immortality, refurbishes the fundamental disagreement that Freud and H.D. maintained during their interchange a decade earlier. In this long poem, spiritualism and materialism meet head-on, as a prophetic feminine voice offers the promise of imminent spiritual renewal from within the context of the potentially apocalyptic setting of a masculinist war-time world. Consequently, the rhetoric of impassioned spiritual realism asserts itself in company with the science-based, reductive language of the materialist throughout the work. The modernist quest to recover transcendent meaning from the chaos of a war-torn milieu occupies the pages of the long poem, representing, according to Friedman, "H.D's refusal to accept the materialist definitions of reality that establish so devastatingly the spiritual waste land of modern life" (Psyche Reborn 98). I suggest that, while the voice of the spiritual realist is clearly heard in Trilogy, its ability to prevail over the influence of a competitive materialist epistemology is not so clearly demonstrated.

Questions concerning the real nature of death weave their way into H.D.'s verse in Trilogy, serving as one of the elements that establish connection and continuity between the three parts of the long poem. "The Walls Do Not Fall" begins with a description of a war-devastated setting in which "ruin opens the tomb" and "the shrine lies open to the sky" (3). The setting promises to open these sacred enclosures, to expose them to the light of observation, to reveal their long-held secrets. The initial speaker of the poem holds out hope of spiritual renewal in the midst of destruction, insisting that "inspiration stalks us / through gloom" and that "Spirit announces the Presence"(3). Redemption through the advent of a transcendent force seems to be promised.

Later, however, the poem's voice speaks as a worm--an ambiguous creature in terms of its relation to the subject of death. For the worm may seen on one hand as a transcendent being, one that enters the grave of the cocoon and emerges in a new, more aesthetically pleasing form. On the other hand, the worm is also commonly regarded as that which consumes the bodies of the dead; it is intimately connected to the body's irreparable dissolution at death. In H.D's presentation of the worm, we see illustrated the conflict between the materialist and spiritualist conceptions of death. Later, these conceptions take voice; we hear two speakers address each other, one saying ". . . so what good are your scribblings [speaking of the books burned during the war]" (17). The other replies, "this--we take them with us beyond death" (17). One voice, representing "the Sword" in the poem, adopts the materialist view; the other, representing "the Word," speaks in faith. The faithful voice speaks again after several lines, this time acknowledging a conflict concerning the nature of death:

So, in our secretive, sly way,
we are proud and chary

of companionship with you others,
our betters, who seem to imply

that we will soon be swept aside,
crumpled rags, no good for banner-stuff . . . (19)

The voice of the Word acknowledges that the Sword will scoff at the anticipation of an afterlife. But this speaker continues, claiming that "other values were revealed to us, / other standards hallowed us" (19). The voice of the Word speaks as the Poet throughout this portion of the long poem--the Poet as revelator, recorder, and perpetuator of transcendent wisdom--all of which the respondent materialist dismisses as unconvincing. But, by the end of this part of the poem, which, if either, voice prevails? It seems that it is the conflict itself, rather than the Word or the Sword, that prevails, since the voice of the Poet in the final section of "The Walls Do Not Fall" expresses a resigned ambivalence toward the promise of an afterlife.
we are voyagers, discoverers,
of the not-known,

the unrecorded;
we have no map;

possibly we will reach haven,
heaven. (59)

Influenced both by the devastation of war, represented as the Sword, and its accompanying materialist voice, the Poet can hold out only mild hope of reaching a heaven that must be conceived by this point in more concrete terms as a "haven" from the devastation in which the poem is set.

In "Tribute to the Angels," the question concerning the nature of death is carried forward, foregrounded by the chant that echoes through the sections: "[W]e pause to give thanks that we rise again from death and live" (61, 70, 87, 110). The repetition of this affirmation alludes to the cycles of repeated prayers, the most familiar of which being the Hail Mary, prayed by Catholics, who venerate the mother of Jesus. Such a connection seems appropriate, since this portion of the long poem depicts the alchemical creation of a composite feminine deity: a co-mingling of Mary, Venus, Aphrodite, and Astarte--the Lady whose arrival is described beginning in section 25. The chant works simultaneously, however, to perpetuate the sense of ambivalence about the afterlife expressed at the end of "The Walls Do Not Fall." An equal ambivalence toward the goddess herself as a savior, a guarantor of an afterlife, is implied by the Poet's admission in section 13 that she has been called upon by her patron to "invent" a name, a persona for this product of the crucible (76). The association of the feminine deity's arrival with a para-scientific process that involves the cohesion of a number of material elements into a new substance seems to call the Lady's legitimacy into immediate question. She may, in spite of the entrancing descriptions of her in this poem, appear very like the "Christos-image" in section 18 of "The Walls Do Not Fall," which "is most difficult to disentangle / from its art-craft junk-shop / paint-and-plaster medieval jumble / of pain-worship and death-symbol" (27). When the Lady materializes in "Tribute to the Angels," she is literally materialized: constructed of found elements from Classical and Christian tradition and amalgamated by the unconscious of the dreamer who envisions her. While H.D. may narrate the purposeful construction of a feminine goddess to demonstrate that a woman mystic can do just that, the narration seems equally to indicate that the act of constructing a deity is just that--a construction-- and that it points to the conspicuous absence of the higher truths for which the spiritual realist searches.

In "The Flowering of the Rod," the conflict between the two ideologies--Freud's and H.D.'s --reaches its peak. DuPlessis infers that the relationship that develops between Kaspar and Mary mirrors and perhaps parodies the relationship between H.D. and Freud (96). In fact, the description of Mary's journey to Kaspar's home in section 13 reads remarkably like H.D.'s account of finding her way to Freud's apartments in Vienna in Tribute (3). And the account of Kaspar's vision and its subsequent interpretation, notes DuPlessis, seems to mock Freud's dismissive interpretation of the poet's Corfu vision, also narrated in Tribute (96). That H.D had her own and Freud's dissonant philosophies in mind as she wrote "The Flowering of the Rod" is readily apparent.

The complexity of the debate over the possibility of an afterlife, however, is demonstrated even before the interchanges between Kaspar and Mary are narrated. In the first section, resurrection is offered as the predicted culmination of the individual's endurance of war's inevitable destruction. Those who seek the renewed, transcendent life are likened to a flock of wild geese in flight. In section 5, these metaphorical birds are described:

but who knows the desparate urge

of those others--actual or perhaps now
mythical birds--who seek but find no rest

till they drop form the highest point of the spiral
or fall from the innermost centre of the ever-
narrowing circle? (119)

Those, like the spiritual realist, who follow what Freud theorizes as a desperate urge toward wish-fulfillment in their quest for immortality, are depicted as being ultimately defeated as they strive for a future Paradise. Still, they do not give in, for they carry a collective memory--what Freud would call a mass delusion--of the place toward which they fly:
they will not swerve--they have known bliss,
the fruit that satisfies--they have come back--

what if the islands are lost? what if the waters
cover the Hesperides? they would rather

remember the golden apple trees;
O, do not pity them, as you watch them drop
one by one,

for they fall exhausted, numb, blind
but in certain ecstasy,

for theirs is the hunger
for Paradise. (120)

This description of those who will inevitably seek a transcendent, resurrected life following the ravages of war is expressed in such a way that it occupies a paradoxical middle ground between the purely optimistic, lyrical declaration of the believer in resurrection and the pessimistic reservations of the skeptic. The final, ecstatic death-plunge of the birds as they hunger for Paradise proves ambiguous--it promises ecstasy as it narrates defeat. This passage is set against the later simplistic first words of a resurrected speaker--"I am so happy / I am the first or the last / of a flock or swarm . . ."(124) and later "[I am] [n]o poetic fantasy / but a biological reality . . . I live; I am alive . . ." (125). The former passage with its vivid image of a fatal plummet overshadows the mild voice of the newly revived; the resurrected voice may fail to convince.

The passage describing the death-plunge of the geese undoubtedly recalls H.D's consideration of the death of J.J. van der Leeuw, a fellow-patient of Freud who attended regular sessions preceding her own. She had passed him on the steps repeatedly until he flew his own plane to Johannesburg, and crashed. Ruminating over this occasion, H.D. writes:

[b]ut we are in a city of ruin, a world ruined, it might seem, almost past redemption. We must forgo a flight from reality . . . we are not ready for discussion of the Absolute, Absolute Beauty, Absolute Truth, Absolute Goodness. . . . Oh yes, Professor, I know it very well. But I am remembering the injunction you laid upon me and I am thinking . . . of the Flying Dutchman [H.D.'s nickname for van der Leeuw], who, intellectually gifted beyond the ordinary run of man . . . yet flew too high and flew too quickly. (Tribute 85)
Both of these references to stalled flight, the death-plunge of the geese in the poem and the reference to van der Leeuw's death in Tribute, betray at least a partial surrender to the possibility that Freud's denial of an afterlife might be credible.

Later in "The Flowering of the Rod," Kaspar, both an Arab merchant and visionary--both, in effect, a materialist and spiritual realist--seems to take flight like the geese in section 5. In sections 31 and 32 he is permitted an apparently aerial view of lands "out-of-time" (153). Seeming to circle higher and higher like the geese, he views "Paradise / before Eve . . ." (155). As this panoramic vision that encompasses prehistory gives way to a scene reminiscent of Christ's Nativity, Kaspar finds himself, one of the Magi, finally in the presence of Mary, whom he has met in other times in the guises of other New Testament Marys. In this climactic scene, though, Kaspar's attention is arrested not by the Christ child, but by "the bundle of myrrh / she [Mary] held in her arms" (172). As in the vision of the Lady in "Tribute to the Angels," Christ, the reputed Savior, the eventual firstborn from the dead, is noticeably absent. This time in the child's place in the woman's arms is myrrh-a substance used to anoint or embalm the dead. If Kaspar has up to now soared to the height of his visionary experience, perhaps this final image initiates his ecstatic deathward plunge. As the final scene of the long poem, the image of the Marian figure bearing only a funerary spice seems to speak to the conflict between H.D. and Freud concerning death. The unsettling and inconclusive ending of the poem seems to indicate that the conflict persists for H.D.

Divine Wordplay: Gods as Commodities

Of course, mentions of myrrh recur throughout Trilogy. It appears initially with the first reference to the Mage in "The Walls Do Not Fall"(10). It is associated and even equated with Mary in "The Flowering of the Rod." Its great cost and the fact that its properties are believed to be eternal are celebrated in section 14. Aliki Barnstone proposes that "H.D. sees myrrh as poetry because of its association with immortality, sacredness, and resurrection" (176). If that is the case, then the final image in Trilogy lends preeminence to the Poet who opposes the materialist's comments throughout the text. The poem has been a complex demonstration of the feminine and redemptive power of poetry to convey higher truths. Mary--a number of Marys--replace Christ as Savior, establishing for H.D. and those who will hear her message a new post-war religion with a feminine deity at its head. I suggest that the text is not so clearcut. If we regard myrrh as strictly a substance, as the costly commodity that Kaspar possesses in his alabastar jars, as the powdered preparation with which the Egyptians filled the cavities of corpses, its significance shifts dramatically. Myrrh loses its mystical properties and joins the ranks of common material goods.

In Tribute, H.D. recalls an incident with Freud that may invoke a materialist interpretation of the references to myrrh in Trilogy. She recalls having sent Freud gardenias and enclosing a card that read, "To greet the return of the Gods." Freud sent a return note revealing that some people had read her word "gods" as "goods" (Tribute 11). H.D then notes of the collection of idols surrounding "the Professor" in his office that "[t]he Gods or the Goods were suitably arranged on ordered shelves." H.D. came to Freud anxious to delve into her own dreams and vision which included, she felt, complex signs and references to classical and religious myth. She was anxious to summon the gods into the products of her own unconscious in order to derive a spiritual reality. Freud handily discouraged her purposes by transforming the spiritual to the material, the gods to the goods.

The influence of Freud's wordplay is observable in Trilogy, where the mystical Lady in her various guises is metaphorized as myrrh. For just as readily as H.D. is able to spiritualize the material realities of a war, she also material-izes the spiritual beings in the poem. As Freud turns gods to goods, so H.D. turns Mary to myrrh (135). Myrrh is the "precious merchandise" (132), the exchange value of which drives the economy that leads Kaspar to his final visionary experience. No sooner, it seems, does H.D. conceive of a feminine deity than that deity is commodified by Freud's materialist epistemology.

Paradigmatic of this reduction of deity to the material is the reference in "The Flowering of the Rod" to the birth of Adonis. In this passage, Mary transforms into Myrrha, the goddess who is reduced to a myrrh tree from which Adonis is born:

. . . I shall be Mary-myrrh;

I am that myrrh tree of the gentiles,
the heathen [. . .]

she wept bitterly till some heathen god
changed her to a myrrh-tree

I am Mary, I will weep bitterly,
bitterly . . . bitterly. (135)

The story of Adonis' birth not only drops another element into the crucible in which H.D.'s feminine deity is formulated, the narrative also demonstrates the material-ization of the goddess, ironically similarly to the way in which Freud, with a simple wordplay, material-izes H.D.'s concept of the gods, diminishing their possible contribution to the discovery of spiritual reality. Coupled with the association of myrrh with the funereal, the material-ization of Adonis from the maternal myrrh tree blends Freud's equation of the gods with goods with his belief that humankind is born to a destiny that is no more than ultimate dissolution and physical decomposition. The individual constructs a spiritual pseudo-reality in order to resist what the external world makes evident. As H.D. portrays the spiritual at work within a real-world setting in Trilogy, many of her images serve a double purpose, to connote both a materialist malaise and an expression of divine Presence. In the Adonis image, the material manages to overshadow the spiritual, revealing that H.D., as she wrote this long poem, conveyed her own continued unrest over Freud's materialist position.


In terms of the conflict inspired by her relationship with Freud, H.D. expresses her maintained ambivalence in Trilogy. As a sustained argument between materialist and spiritual realist, the poem projects a recognizably Modernist inconclusiveness. If we now recover what we set aside in the beginning--the feminist thrust of the poem's central image: the Lady in all her guises--we find this image to be inextricably complicated by the sustained conflict. At the same time that the Lady may herald a new, feminized theology, her presence is visionary, the product of an admitted dream. The Lady arrives, but her Presence is perplexed by the possibility that dreams may be nothing more than the effort of one individual's unconscious to synthesize its content with the trivial physical realities of the individual's recent past. The possibility of this new deity's ability to offer immortality by posing as a feminine redeemer is likewise undermined by uncertainties projected in the descriptions of her appearances. Finally, the deity herself is implicated with the material world in the poem, reduced to commodity status, stripped of spiritual reality. She stands ambiguously as both spiritual and material, triumphant and disqualified.

By sustaining rather than resolving the poem's central conflict, H.D. establishes Trilogy as, if such a description can apply, a conventional Modernist long poem. She begins with the question of whether or not she wants to found a new religion. In the long poem, she proceeds to do so, attempting to offer the post-war world new hope. Her project, however, is confounded by the domination of the materialist ideology against which the new theology is formulated. While H.D. may never have fully given in to Freud's perspective, she nevertheless gives substantial place to it, making of Trilogy yet another lamentation over modern cultural malaise.

Works Cited

Barnstone, Aliki. "Introduction." Trilogy. H.D.

Chisholm, Dianne. "Pornopoeia, the Modernist Canon, and the Cultural Capital of Sexual Literacy: The Case of H.D." Dickie and Travisano. 69-94.

Collecott, Diana. H.D. and Sapphic Modernism: 1910-1950. New York: Cambridge UP, 1999.

Dickie, Margaret and Thomas Travisano. Gendered Modernisms: American Women Poets and Their Readers. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1996.

Doolittle, Hilda. Tribute to Freud. New York: New Directions, 1974.

----. Trilogy. New York: New Directions, 1998.

DuPlessis, Rachel Blau. H.D.: The Career of That Struggle. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1986.

Edmunds, Susan. Out of Line: History, Psychoanalysis, and Montage in H.D.'s Long Poems. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1994.

Friedman, Susan Stanford. Psyche Reborn: The Emergence of H.D. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1981.

----. "When the "Long" Poem Is a "Big" Poem: Self-Authorizing Strategies in Women's Twentieth-Century "Long Poems." LIT 2 (1990): 9-25.

Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents. Ed. and Trans. James Strachey. New York: Norton, 1961.

----. The Interpretation of Dreams. The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud. Ed. and Trans. A. A. Brill. New York: Random House, 2995. 149-520.

Hughes, Gertrude Reif. "Making It New: Hilda Doolittle, Gwendolyn Brooks, and the Feminist Potential of Modern Poetry." American Quarterly 42 (September 1990): 375-401.

Kaufman, Michael. "Gendering Modernism: H.D., Imagism, and the Masculinist Aesthetics." Unmanning Modernism: Gendered Re-Readings. Eds. Elizabeth Jane Harrison and Shirley Peterson. Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, 1997. 59-72.

Keeling, Bret L. "H.D. and 'The Contest': Archaeology of a Sapphic Gaze." Twentieth Century Literature 44.2 (Summer 1992): 176-202.

Kibble, Matthew. "'The Still-born Generation': Decadence and the Great War in H.D.'s Fiction. Modern Fiction Studies 44.3 (1998): 540-567.

Laity, Cassandra. "H.D., Modernism, and the Transgressive Sexualities of Decadent-Romantic Platonism." Dickie and Travisano. 45-68.

Rainey, Lawrence S. "Canon, Gender and Text: The Case of H.D." College Literature 18.3 (October 1991): 106-26.

ARTICLE: "A Short Biography of Charles L. Doolittle"
John F. Mahoney
Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, Weil Hall
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611-6595
(352)392-1464, ext. 2016

A Short Biography of Charles L. Doolittle


Lehigh University was founded in 1865 and is located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I spent most of the 1950's on the Lehigh campus both as an undergraduate student and as a graduate student. One of my hobbies was to study graffiti that had been put in place by Lehigh students years before. It could be found scribbled on brickwork, scratched into blackboards, or carved into woodwork. When an inscription bore initials and class year it was often possible, with the aid of the alumni directory, to determine the name of the author. It was interesting to see what became of them in later life. This led to another pastime, which was to examine library material that dealt with Lehigh's earlier days. One prominent name that came up was that of Professor Mansfield Merriman (1848-1925). He was a longtime head of civil engineering, a prolific textbook writer, a genealogist, a fine mathematician and statistician, and a practical joker. A more complete account of his life is in order, a few snippets of which appear later in this account.

Memory is a curious grab bag. Another Lehigh name that I retained for half a century was that of a professor Doolittle. I did not recall his first name nor his field. After some time Googling I found in the 1890 census a Lehigh professor named Charles L. Doolittle. He is listed as living at 118 Church Street in North Bethlehem. His wife's name was given as Helen, and he had five children. This was the starting point of a lengthy search into the life and accomplishments of Charles Leander Doolittle (1843-1919). Most of what I know about him was gleaned from the Internet and from the published writings of his daughter, Hilda.

The Lehigh Years (1875-1895)

In 1875, at the age of 32, with a recent baccalaureate in civil engineering from the University of Michigan, Doolittle settled in Bethlehem. He had been hired to occupy the professorship in astronomy that had recently been vacated by Hiero B. Herr. Herr had been preceded in that role by Alfred M. Mayer, who had moved on to the Stevens Institute. Through Mayer's efforts Lehigh trustee Robert H. Sayre was persuaded to provide $5000 in 1868 for the construction and equipping of an astronomical observatory-henceforth known as the Sayre Observatory. The building is still in existence, but it is not in its original location. It has not been used as an observatory for decades.

There were two original telescopes at the Sayre Observatory-a six-inch equatorial telescope and a dilapidated zenith telescope. The latter had been manufactured by E. & G.W. Blunt in 1868. It had been found to be unserviceable by the U.S. Coast Survey and was then sold to Lehigh. It was repaired by Edward Kahler in 1875 and was used extensively by Doolittle for the next 20 years.

The Sayre Observatory was a dual-purpose facility. It served as a laboratory so that undergraduates could gain experience in field astronomy. In the hands of a skilled researcher such as Doolittle, the Sayre Observatory could also be used as a source of astronomical data suitable for publication in scientific journals. Doolittle was an extensive publisher of his observations. This is remarkable since it is doubtful that his academic career rested upon a record of publication. He had other administrative duties, including being the head of the mathematics faculty.

Doolittle's first few months in Bethlehem must have been sad. He arrived in 1875 with a pregnant wife and two small children. The children were eight-year-old Alfred and six-year-old Eric. His wife was the former Martha Farrand (1844-1876) whom he had married in 1866. She was from Ontario, Indiana, as was Doolittle. She had been a music teacher at the La Grange Collegiate Institute, a church-related preparatory school with which Doolittle had also been affiliated. By the spring of 1876 both Martha and their infant daughter, Alice, had died. A contemporary obituary said that the family lived at "University Grounds," which seems to imply that there was faculty housing on the Lehigh campus.

Resolutely, Doolittle continued to perform his duties of teaching and research. In 1882 he married Helen Wolle (1852-1927) who was from a prominent Bethlehem Moravian family. She was a music teacher, as was Doolittle's first wife, Martha. Helen's brother was J. Fred Wolle, a well-known musician who founded the Bethlehem Bach Festival in 1900.

In 1885 Doolittle had published the first of several editions of his book, A Treatise on Practical Astronomy. This book, all 642 pages of it, is available on the Internet-merely go to Google Books and insert the title of the book. By a scanning of the book the grasp that Doolittle had on the subject becomes clear.

Doolittle's research interests were both eclectic and focused. From his earliest times at Lehigh and throughout his professional career he was consumed by the proposition that the latitude (and longitude) of a fixed point on the earth's surface may be undergoing continuous variation. This variation, if it existed, could be counted upon to be quite small. Nonetheless Doolittle set out, using the second-hand zenith telescope, to attempt to measure the effect. In 1879 he published the first of a series of papers on the subject. This was followed by about 10 more journal articles concerning the latitude of the Sayre Observatory.

The Flower Observatory (1895-1912)

In 1895 Doolittle left Lehigh to be the first director of the newly formed Flower Observatory. It was located in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, and was a part of the University of Pennsylvania. This observatory was well equipped and allowed him to continue his research into the variation of latitude using superior instruments. He continued his directorship and his research until 1912 when he retired. His second son, Eric, succeeded him as director.

Simon Newcomb (1835-1909) has been described as America's Unofficial Astronomer Royal. He delivered the dedicatory address for the Flower Observatory in 1897. At that time he said that the problem of the variation of latitude was an important concept and that Doolittle had distinguished himself in the subject and that the Flower Observatory would continue to do research in this cause. Newcomb described the new instruments that were available to Doolittle as "the finest instruments ever used for the purpose." After a few years of using these exceptional telescopes Doolittle felt the need for a different type of instrument that would allow for simultaneous and confirming measurements of the difficult-to-measure variation of latitude.

To this end Doolittle obtained funds from Joseph Wharton (the same Wharton who endowed the school of business at UP) for the construction of an instrument that he called the Wharton Reflex Zenith Tube. Doolittle designed this instrument along the lines set forth by the British astronomer George Airy (1801-1892) in 1848. Starting in 1903 and for the next several years Doolittle used a zenith telescope and the Wharton Reflex Zenith Tube in parallel in an effort to further document the variation of latitude. These instruments were used in combination until Doolittle retired in 1912 when he concluded that "the Wharton Instrument has proven in some respects less satisfactory than was hoped."

This disappointment with the Wharton Reflex Zenith Tube may be full of irony. The instrument relied upon an open pool of mercury to provide a level reflecting surface. This pool had to have its level properly maintained and its surface had to be skimmed occasionally to remove impurities. Although there is no supporting evidence, several years of breathing mercury vapor could hardly have had a positive effect on his physical and mental health. Open containers of mercury would not be allowed in the workplace today.

Doolittle died in 1919 at the age of 76.

Doolittle's Children

Doolittle had eight children, but two of them (Edith and Alice) died in infancy. The surviving children achieved varying degrees of success.

Alfred (1867-1921) was born to Doolittle's first wife in Ontario, Indiana. He received an AB from Lehigh in 1887 and then became an instructor of mathematics and astronomy from 1889 until 1891. He went on to lead an uneventful life as instructor of mathematics and director of the astronomical observatory at the Catholic University of America from 1889 to 1901 and from 1906 to 1913. He also served at the Nautical Almanac Office in Washington.

Eric (1869-1920) was also born in Ontario, Indiana, to Doolittle's first wife. He was educated in Bethlehem schools and received a baccalaureate in civil engineering from Lehigh in 1891. After serving as an instructor in mathematics and astronomy at Lehigh from 1891 until 1892, he took additional instruction at the University of Iowa and at the University of Chicago. In 1896 he joined his father at the Flower Observatory. When his father retired in 1912 Eric took over as the director of the Flower Observatory. Eric developed a reputation as a first-class astronomical observer in his primary field of double stars. He died a year-and-a-half after his father. Judging from the relative number of obituaries which appeared in scientific journals, Eric may have been better known than his father.

Gilbert (1884-1918) was the first surviving child of Doolittle's second marriage since his older sister, Edith, died in infancy. He moved away from Bethlehem in 1895 when his father accepted the directorship of the Flower Observatory. He received a baccalaureate in 1905 and a master's degree in 1915 both in civil engineering from the University of Pennsylvania. He served as a captain in the army during the First World War. He was killed in France 16 days before the Armistice.

Hilda (1886-1961) was the only surviving female child. She wrote a book entitled The Gift which in part chronicles her Moravian upbringing in Bethlehem (an abridged edition was published by New Directions in 1982; the complete text, edited by Jane Augustine, was published by the University Press of Florida in 1998). She is a major Modernist writer who wrote in a wide variety of genres. Ezra Pound (1885-1972), to whom she was at one time engaged, suggested to her the nom de plume H.D., by which she is still known. By far she is the most famous of this branch of the Doolittle family.

Harold (1887-1968) was born in Bethlehem. He received a baccalaureate in engineering from the University of Pennsylvania in 1909, and he became an executive for Koppers Coal and Coke Company. Hilda relied upon him to provide financial advice.

Melvin (1894-1963) was born in Bethlehem and was an infant when the family moved from Bethlehem to Upper Darby. Actually, his name was Charles Melvin, but he was usually known by his middle name. He became an electrical engineer and because of his understanding of the new field of radio he assisted his half-brother Eric in determining the longitude of the Flower Observatory in 1914. He became an executive of the Ford Motor Company.

Many of these children, their parents, and other close relatives, are buried or memorialized at the Nisky Hill Cemetery in Bethlehem.

The Doolittle-Merriman Connection

The town of Wallingford, Connecticut was founded in 1670 largely by residents of near-by New Haven. They were looking for new land to homestead. Two of the town's founders were Abraham Doolittle and Nathaniel Merriman. Genealogical records reveal that Charles L. Doolittle was a seventh generation descendant of Abraham Doolittle, while Mansfield Merriman was a sixth generation descendant of Nathaniel Merriman. It is remarkable that the Doolittle and Merriman families should reunite on the Lehigh campus in the 1870s. Doolittle was the head of mathematics and astronomy while Merriman was the head of civil engineering.

Doolittle and Merriman had much in common. They were good at mathematics, although Merriman had superior credentials. His PhD was from Yale in 1876 and was said to be the first such degree to be granted in statistics in the United States. They both wrote extensively about the method of least squares. Merriman authored two books on the subject, both of which are available on the Internet. The first, Elements of Least Squares appeared in 1877, while the second, A Text Book on the Method of Least Squares, came out in 1884. Doolittle devoted the first 69 pages of his 1885 book, A Treatise on Practical Astronomy, to the method of least squares. Doolittle did not reference Merriman who was clearly an expert on the subject. During the years that they were both at Lehigh (1878-1895) they were headquartered in Packer Hall and probably met daily. They attended many of the same professional meetings and they represented Lehigh at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. In a news release heralding Merriman's contribution to the solving of pentic equations, Doolittle is quoted as saying that this is the greatest discovery in mathematics since Descartes formulated his biquadratic solution. For more nonsense enter "diaphote" into a search engine.

Genealogy and Early History

Most of the Doolittles in the United States are descended from Abraham Doolittle (1620-1690) of Wallingford, in what is now Connecticut. In his time, large families of the dozen or more children were common. When a wife died her husband would remarry so as to continue the process. As the generations evolved, and with limited migration, land suitable for a homestead became scarce. Abraham's great-great-great-grandson Willard Doolittle (1782-1843) was from the New Haven area. In response to the need for land and possibly because of the bitter summer of 1816 he moved to up-state New York. When the town of Ontario, Indiana, was formed in the 1830s Willard moved his family there. Soon after they arrived in Indiana, Willard's son Charles married Celia Sanger in 1840. Charles and Celia produced four children. The older of the two boys was named Alvin (1841-1864?), while his brother is our subject, Charles L. Doolittle. Both Doolittle boys served in the Civil War, but only Charles survived. It is reported that their mother, Celia, expressed regret that the fate of her sons had not been reversed. Possibly this was a factor in Doolittle's development-he wanted to prove himself to his mother.

Doolittle received a good secondary education at the La Grange Collegiate Institute that was a local church-related school. From there he went to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He seemed to have studied there, on and off, for a decade, finally receiving a baccalaureate in civil engineering in 1874. During this time at Michigan he also studied at the Detroit Observatory (in spite of its name it was located in Ann Arbor) with James Watson, the director. From 1873 to 1875 he was employed by the Northern Boundary Survey to do both office and field work. This survey was a major undertaking since it sought to establish the location of the US-Canadian boundary from the Lake-of-the-Woods to the Rocky Mountains. The boundary had been established by treaty to be the 49th parallel. Because the location of the parallel was known only approximately, entire settlements were unsure whether they were in the US or Canada.

Also serving with Doolittle on the Northern Boundary Survey was the astronomer Lewis Boss (1846-1912). In 1876 Boss became director of the Dudley Observatory at Albany, New York. Remarkably, both Boss and Doolittle terminated their respective directorships in 1912, and both were succeeded in that role by a son.

Latitude Variation and Polar Motion

To grasp the nature of Doolittle's main focus it is necessary to appreciate the problem of latitude variation or of polar motion.

In 1764 the mathematician Euler (1707-1783) analyzed the motion of our planet as if it were a rigid ellipsoid with substantially the same dimensions as the earth-that is, slightly flattened from north to south and somewhat larger about the equator. A body of this shape is most stable when it rotates about its minor north-south axis. However, if this situation were to undergo a perturbation of sufficient strength, the axis of rotation would change from being fixed to one that traced out a circular cone. Stated otherwise, the poles would not remain fixed, but would slowly move in small circles about their mean polar position. Euler predicted that it would require 10 months to complete the circles. If this polar motion actually took place it would have a small but important influence on coordinates of fixed locations on the surface of the earth. If the poles were to roam about in a circular fashion then the position of a fixed point on the earth's surface would also undergo a corresponding motion about its mean location. In effect this indicates that the latitude and longitude of a point on the surface of the earth would undergo continuous change. For most applications the effect is so small as to be insignificant, but for many astronomical observations it is necessary to know very accurately the location of the observatory. When the observatory moves from its presumed location this could manifest itself in observational errors if not properly accounted for. Thus the prospect of polar motion loomed as an important aspect in the minds of astronomers. Early astronomers tried their best to detect and measure the effect but their efforts were largely inconclusive in part because the changes were so slight and in part because they were influenced by Euler's prediction of a 10 month period.

Seth Carlo Chandler (1846-1913) never attended college but while he was still in high school became a "computer" for the well-known mathematician Benjamin Peirce (1809-1880). A "computer" was employed to perform routine arithmetic calculations. This position required competence in the use of tables of logarithms and trigonometric functions, and in the accurate completion of the indicated mathematical details. He went on to a similar position with the prominent astronomer Benjamin Gould (1824-1896) where his computational abilities were further expanded. Gould secured a post for Chandler with the US Coast Survey where his duties were enlarged to include familiarity with and use of astronomical instruments, and the preparation of technical reports. When Gould left the Coast Survey to practice astronomy in Argentina, Chandler took a position as an actuary, but he continued his interest in astronomy. As an amateur he made many contributions to the discovery and cataloging of variable stars before turning his attention to the more accurate determination of latitude. To this end he invented a simple instrument called the "Almucantar" which he used to produce relevant data. He also examined data taken by other observers. Subsequent analysis seemed to show that there was a variation of latitude with time. His analysis suggested that the variation was periodic in nature with a major period of 14 months (not 10 months as Euler predicted) along with a superimposed period of 12 months. These two modes would interact-sometimes they would reinforce and sometimes they would cancel. This could account for puzzling results encountered by many data takers. Also, Chandler's work showed that polar motion was not circular but instead was more complicated. He published his findings in a series of papers beginning in 1891. Today we know that polar motion is more intricate than that given by Chandler's model. There is no simple formula for predicting polar motion.

Karl Kustner (1856-1936) is another figure in the controversy about the existence of polar motion and latitude variation. Armed with an exceptionally fine instrument called a universal transit he was able to discern that latitude most probably varied. He published this in 1888.

Doolittle's Legacy and Other Issues

Doolittle's life had its ups and its downs, punctuated by achievements and disappointments. It was his life's work to unravel the related mysteries of latitude variation and polar motion. In spite of frustrations he seemed to have enjoyed the quest. Why else would he so tenaciously continue to use a second-hand zenith telescope during his 20-year stay at Lehigh? Another hardship involved the tremendous amount of hand calculation that was involved in his book and in each journal article or research report. The effort involved in preparing these publications is breathtaking. Tasks that today are done routinely by computer were in Doolittle's time done by hand. Simultaneous equations involving several variables were solved manually. Publications usually contained tables. Typically, the first of the several tabular columns was devoted to a long list of the observed data. The remaining columns were derived from the first column, the entries of which had to be generated by laborious hand calculation. Usually the number of digits involved in the computation would preclude use of a slide rule.

Astronomical observations can be formidable. For much of his stay at Lehigh, Doolittle lived in the North Bethlehem Moravian community on Church Street. He would walk between his house and the Lehigh campus by taking the old covered bridge that preceded the Hill-to-Hill bridge. On clear nights he would take this route to and from the Sayre Observatory. His daughter, Hilda, recounted seeing his beard covered with ice upon returning from a cold wintertime session at the observatory.

Most Lehigh students probably did not value the rigors that Doolittle imposed upon them. An exception to this appears to be Richard Hawley Tucker (1859-1952). He received a baccalaureate in civil engineering from Lehigh in 1879. Doolittle influenced him to seek a career in astronomy. Upon graduation he became an assistant to Lewis Boss at the Dudley Observatory at Albany. After four years there he instructed at Lehigh for a year and then went on to a distinguished career at the Lick Observatory in California. Lehigh awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1922.

Doolittle could not have known how important the accurate knowledge of polar motion and latitude variation were to become. Global positioning by means of earth satellites relies heavily upon this information. Doolittle was a pioneer in the field even if history has not been kind to him. Consider the comments of Herman S. Davis which appeared in the journal Science in 1903 and concerned a major retrospective report of Doolittle's early research efforts:

"This series is of exceptional value as being the earliest, as well as the most prolonged, thus far made in the investigation of latitude variation. It was begun seven years before the first proposal by Fergola at the session of the International Geodetic Association in Rome, that there should be an observational test of the constancy of latitude, and eight years before Kustner began his observations whereby the discovery of variation was first boldly announced as proven."
Davis was a researcher of the International Latitude Observatory and was in a position to make a competent evaluation.

Doolittle's immediate family was probably a mixed blessing. His surviving children were successful, but two of his children died in infancy. His first wife died in her early 30s, probably from complications of her final pregnancy. One son (Gilbert) died in the final days of WWI. His daughter, Hilda, although brilliant, was an academic disappointment, and he seems to have feared for her living a bohemian lifestyle abroad. The oldest son, Alfred, lived in Washington, which was an easy train ride from Philadelphia, yet there appeared to be little communication between father and son. Both Alfred and Eric, who were children of Doolittle's first marriage, died in their early 50s shortly after their father. This suggests that neither son enjoyed good health. Doolittle's abrupt cessation of intellectual activities in 1912 presages a decline in health. The cause of his death in 1919 is not known.

Doolittle was scooped twice. In the first instance Kustner announced in 1888 that latitude variation was definitely confirmed. Doolittle surely was convinced of this prior to Kustner's declaration, but possibly because he lacked confidence in his second-hand zenith telescope, or because his data did not adhere to Euler's model, he felt uncomfortable making such a pronouncement.

The second scoop came at the hand of Chandler. Euler's model held that the poles move in circles with a period of 10 months. It has been suggested that Chandler was not familiar with Euler's work, and so was unencumbered by it. By an empirical analysis of the relevant data he developed a model that suggested that there were two superimposed polar motions-one with a period of 14 months while the other had a period of 12 months. This meant that polar motion was not circular, which explained the confusion encountered by those who were looking for circular motion. Although Chandler's model turned out to be inexact, it was still a triumph and may have caused embarrassment to other workers in the field.

How should Doolittle's life and work be evaluated? He was competent, energetic, and respected in his lifetime. He authored some 50 paper and reports. The University of Michigan awarded him an honorary ScD in 1897, just two years after he left Lehigh. Years later, in 1912, Lehigh gave him an honorary LLD. His life was saddened by the deaths of his brother, three of his children, and one wife. He never achieved the big discovery that would preserve his reputation. Today his name barely rates a footnote and then he is occasionally confused with his son Eric.

In closing, here are the final words of Doolittle's obituary that were written by R. H. Tucker, who was his student and colleague:

"He was a man of singular modest temperament, genial in manner and straight forward in character. These qualities were recognized by his students-one of the real tests of a man-as they have been by a wide circle of friends."
[Ed. note: In this essay, as in all HD contexts, the word "Moravian" refers to a church, not an ethnic group. At present, worldwide, most Moravians (about 66%) are black, largely as a result of 18th-century missionaries' work among African slaves in the Dutch West Indies.]


CFP for the JCRT special issue entitled "H.D. and the Archaeology of Religion."

The Journal of Cultural and Religious Theory is seeking 20-30 page articles for a Special Issue on H.D. and religion in the context of material culture. We're looking for papers that illustrate H.D.'s role in shaping religious thinking.

Topics might include, but are not limited to, H.D.'s interests in various religious practices ancient and modern, her involvement in spiritualists' discourses, her use of museum artifacts and ancient texts as evidence of broader religious thinking, her use of science within the religious discourse and religion within the scientific discourse, as well as articles that consider other religious/spiritualist associations--Quaker meditations, Moravianism, the RAF seances, popular culture, and the modernist occult.

JCRT welcomes studies with a broad approach to what constitutes "religious thought," but all contributions should gesture beyond the single author in order to discuss the artist's larger contribution to modernist conceptions of religious practices, themes, or cultural contexts.

Send full article or a 1-page proposal to Colbey Emmerson Reid (creid@ycp.edu) by Aug 1, 2008; full articles will be due December 1, 2008 with the published issue scheduled for April 2009. Potential contributors are encouraged to read about the JCRT and its submissions policies at http://www.jcrt.org/about.html

(Thanks, Lisa Simon.)


Miriam Fuchs reminded the HD community that the journal Biography is always looking for suitable essays. Manuscripts should explore the theoretical, generic, historical, gendered, or cultural dimensions of life writing. Discussions of auto/biographical forms should take place within critical debates and address and amplify them.

Most universities have online access to the Project Muse website, and Biography is available there--an essay by Donna Hollenberg on Denise Levertov and Ezra Pound was published in Biography 27.4 (Fall 2004). If you're uncertain whether an essay would be appropriate, send me an abstract. Or if you have an essay that seems to fit the journal, send it to biograph@hawaii.edu. All essays go through a blind evaluation process. Biography could publish one essay, or if three or four were recommended, then a cluster.

Miriam Fuchs (University of Hawaii at Manoa) is co-editor of Biography.


Nesrin Eruysal (Middle East Technical University) wonders whether anyone has come across a text including H.D.'s reminiscences of Istanbul (HD visited with her mother and Bryher in 1922, and they stayed at the Pera Palas hotel).

Jane Augustine offers suggestions for what she'd like to read in HD's Web: "notes on what you're doing in research or writing that excites you or has gotten to a snag or is only embryonic but enticing; the interrelations of work and life, how you manage to juggle teaching, commuting, family, children, spouses etc., maybe in the form of 'A Day in the Life of...' ; notes on issues larger than H.D. specifically but related to women in the academy, and these perhaps especially if you don't live in the U.S. I'm not teaching any more, can't always get to conferences to meet people, and I look to the web newsletter to fill the gap."

Others on the list have mentioned wanting to learn, read, and think more about HD and bisexuality, HD and race, and HD's prose.

Marsha Bryant (University of Florida) learned from a visiting art historian, Mignon Nixon, that there's a Nancy Spero piece currently on display at New York's Museum of Modern Art that would be of interest to H.D. scholars and fans: "Notes in Time on Women." One of the scrolls contains quotations from Helen in Egypt. The piece is in the contemporary gallery. She wonders whether anyone knows how to get a copy of Kathleen Fraser's piece on HD and Spero ("Letter from Rome") that appeared in M/E/A/N/I/N/G.
Ed. note: Fraser's 1991 essay, "Letter from Rome: H.D., Spero, and the Reconstruction of Gender" is collected in her book, Translating the Unspeakable: Poetry and the Innovative Necessity (University of Alabama Press, 1999). For more on Fraser, see below (What Material is Where).

HD's Web is interested in the abstracts of recent dissertations directly or indirectly concerning HD. Please submit them: don't be shy! (And congratulations, all you new Doctors of Philosophy, lovers of wisdom.)

(arranged chronogically, the most recent listed last)

Chicago, December 27-30, 2007

The following papers about HD were presented:

Brenda Sue Helt (University of Minnesota, Twin Cities) presented "Naming the Author(s) of Hilda Doolittle's Prose Works: What 'HD' Obscures" during session 481, "Naming and Identity."

Jody R. Rosen (Graduate Center, City University of New York) presented "'Her Gart Went Round in Circles': The Significance of Naming in HD's HERmione" during session 778, "Naming and Significance."


St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY, April 5, 2008

For more details on the conference, go to http://www.stfranciscollege.edu/eventsDetailsNoReg.aspx?Channel=/Channels/Admissions/Admissions%20Content&WorkflowItemID=9dd2a0b1-59e9-4bd9-8a3e-49bcab1e97ae

Brenna Dugan (University of Toledo, master's student), gave a paper on HD's Sea Garden. The abstract for her paper is below.

Speaking Through the Flowers: Confession and Duality in H.D.'s Sea Garden

The modernist poet H.D. is known for her skill in using imagery and is considered to be the foremost poet of the Imagist movement. One needn't look too closely, however, to see that her work goes beyond the idea of simply showing images; it enters the realm of storytelling and confession. H.D uses images like gardens, flowers, water, wind, islands and rocks (Kelvin 171) to tell a story of confinement, loss and beauty under uncommon circumstances. In other words, she uses nature as a means of emotional communication showing that her intention goes deeper than the strict aesthetics of Imagism. Imagism, in its purest form, focused on the exactitude of words and images that were in the poem and focusing less on the emotions and feelings behind them, emphasizing "clarity of expression through the use of precise visual images" (qtd. in "A Brief Guide to Imagism" par. 1). H.D.'s personalization of Imagist principles becomes clear when one reads the poems in the context of her life. In fact, she can even be considered something of a confessional poet, producing poetry that shows one's "private experiences with and feelings about death, trauma, depression and relationships" ("A Brief Guide to Confessional Poetry" par. 2). H.D. does confess and explain her feelings, but she does not do so in the obvious way of poets who wrote after her. Instead, she "confesses" through natural imagery. This ability to combine Imagism and confessional poetry is a testament to her poetic skill and perhaps the reason why she has come to be recognized as a major figure of Modernism.

In H.D.'s personal and public life, she never seemed to settle on one way of thinking, one style or writing or one path. She was a master of duality and striking combinations seem to come naturally to her. She lived as a lover of both men and women; she was both strong and beautiful; she was both a poet and a woman in a time of the dominance of male poets. She also created duality in her work. Poems like "The Contest" and "Garden," for example, contain both rock and flower imagery. One is hard, representing strength, while the other represents softness and beauty. These are just two examples of "H.D.'s endless need to confront opposites with each other and to explore the many possible ways of relating them" (Kelvin 171). For a reader of Sea Garden, a discussion of both confession and duality in H.D.'s work is proper, as they both play a significant role in this poetry book. She uses imagery as a vehicle for confession, often working one image alongside another seemingly contrasting image, exploring the dualities.

Sources cited:

"A Brief Guide to Confessional Poetry." Poets.org. 2007. 3 December 2007 http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5650

"A Brief Guide to Imagism." Poets.org. 2007. 3 December 2007 http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5658

Kelvin, Norman. "H.D. and the Years of World War I." Victorian Poetry. 2000. Project Muse. 16 November 2007

(Ed. note: the print reference for Kelvin's article can be found in the HD and war bibliography below, in Bibliographic Notes.)


San Francisco, California
May 22-25, 2008

Intersections and Intertextualities: Marianne Moore and H.D. (Session 12-B)
Organized by the Marianne Moore Society and the H.D. International Society

Chair: Patricia Willis, Yale University

  1. "'Let's Be Alone Together': Aesthetic-Erotic Collaborations in the Moore & Bryher Circle," Susan McCabe, University of Southern California
  2. "Marianne Moore, H.D., and a Return to the Institutions of Modernism," Robin Schulze, Pennsylvania State University
  3. "Nation, Literary Friendships, and Border Crossings: H.D. and Marianne Moore," Annette Debo, Western Carolina University

University of Denver, Denver, Colorado
June 19-22, 2008

Participants, including scholars, editors, creative writers, and critics, gave insightful and particularly stimulating presentations in which they delved deeply into Woolf's role as editor (of her own oeuvre and at the Hogarth Press) and addressed the issues involved in editing her work.

Highlights of the conference included the Cambridge University Press Editions roundtable presentation on matters arising from editing Woolf's Flush, Mrs. Dalloway, and To the Lighthouse; and panels on: Woolf and other modernist writers; editing Woolf's diaries; Woolf, Plath and material culture; Woolf and the arts; editorial censorship.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the conference included the excellent performance by the Kim Robards Dance Company of "Waves into Sand" and the touching theater performance of A Writer's Diary directed by Carol Samson.

(Thanks to Nephie Christodoulides of the University of Cyprus for the conference report.)

(Ed. note: The Kim Robards Dance Company website gives "Waves against Sand" as the title of the piece, while the conference schedule has "Waves into Sand.")

Rita M. Allison (Duquesne University) presented her paper, "Woolf, H.D. and Female Postwar Subjectivity," as part of panel 2B, "Re-envisioning Woolf with (Other) Modernist Writers," chaired by Cheryl Mares (Sweet Briar College).

For more details, including the complete program schedule, go to http://www.du.edu/woolf/

Note that at the end of the program is an announcement of the 2009 conference (June 4-7), to be hosted by Fordham University (Lincoln Center Campus) in New York City. The theme is "Woolf and the City;" a call for papers is forthcoming.


Duquesne University, Pittburgh, Pennsylvania
September 11-13, 2008

The following poets and critics are featured:

Jan Beatty, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Lynn Emanuel, Annie Finch, Kathleen Fraser, Susan Stanford Friedman, Elisabeth Frost, Melissa Girard, Alan Golding, Arielle Greenberg, Jeanne Heuving, Cynthia Hogue, Stacy Hubbard, Lynn Keller, Dawn Lundy Martin, Cristanne Miller, Deborah Mix, Adalaide Morris, Claudia Rankine, Lisa Samuels, Lesley Wheeler, Elizabeth Willis

The following presentations, specifically about HD, are on the program:

Heather H. Thomas (Kutztown University of Pennsylvania), "'Bone Boxes' and 'Camera Obscura': Bringing H.D. into the Creative Writing Class," Session A3, "Teaching Voice(s)."

Jan Heller Levi (Hunter College), "Past the Eyes Pursuing and Forgotten and Subdued: Muriel Rukeyser and H.D. in London, 1936," Session B6, Roundtable: "Muriel's Mark-The Legacy of Muriel Rukeyser."

Trisha Brady (State University of New York at Buffalo), "Representing the Trauma of War: H.D.'s Trilogy," Session F3, "Violence, Trauma, and the Body."

For more details, including the complete schedule, go to http://www.duq.edu/womenpoets/


Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee
November 13-16, 2008

The final complete schedule has not yet been posted, but should be available at some point at http://msa.press.jhu.edu/conference.html. (Archives of past conferences are also posted.) Those interested in HD and film will note that Anne Friedberg is among the featured speakers.

The following seminar (see the site for how seminars differ from panels-one must sign up to attend/participate) may be of interest to HD folks:

Seminar 22: Re-conceiving Modernism: Women's Writing ca. WWII
Leaders: Demetres P. Tryphonopoulos and Lara Vetter

How do we re-conceive a writer's oeuvre when archived and previously unavailable literary work begins to see the light of publication? How do we think differently about a writer's earlier texts when her late modernist writings become more readily accessible? For instance, what will happen once H.D.'s "Delia Alton" trilogy (The Sword Went Out to Sea [published in 2007], The White Rose and the Red, The Mystery) along with Majic Ring take their place as prose companions to her other writings? This seminar invites participants to consider the changing landscape of the literary reception of women authors writing around the time of World War II once archived materials begin to be circulated widely in print.

(Seminar description is from the MSA conference site.)


And a look back into the past:

Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
September 20-22, 2002

Ed. note: Six years ago Amardeep Singh of Lehigh University proposed and convened a conference on H.D. in Bethlehem. (I apologize for not knowing the names of those who were co-organizers.) I seem to remember him commenting on the list in May that a gathering would be fun and then producing a hospitable and fruitful conference a few months later in September. I began that invigorating weekend stranded on a runway in Ohio (bad weather) while Borderline was being screened (this was before the film was available on DVD). Fortunately all other memories are delightful: most of all meeting and learning from the interesting and generous community of HD scholars, but also seeing local HD sites and the town, Lehigh University, and environs of Bethlehem. Below is the schedule of that weekend (I have eliminated specific times and meal breaks!): of interest, perhaps, to both those who missed it and those who attended.

Schedule for "Lost Measure: A Conference on H.D."
Organized by the Lehigh University English Department and H.D. Society


Informal gathering and free-form poetry, oriented to Lehigh undergraduates Screening of Borderline and discussion with Alexander Doty (Lehigh University) and Charlotte Mandel


First Session

Contexts of Classicism
Chair: Vicki Miller, Lehigh University

Maria Fox, "H.D.'s Hymenic Mysteries: 'Hymen' as a Matrix"
Delia Fisher, Westfield State College, "Claiming Classicism: H.D.'s Feminized Epic, Helen in Egypt"
Heather Thomas, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, "H.D. and Anne Waldman: Vow to 'Salvation Poetry'"

Poetics/Iconics of Subject-Making
Chair: Annette Debo, Western Carolina University

Georgia Kreiger, West Virginia University, "Autobiographical Product Versus Process in H. D.'s HERmione" [unfortunately absent]
Wayne Kobylinski, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, "'Could Beauty Be Caught and Hurt': The Captivating Glance in H.D.'s Poetry"
Patricia Moyer, Visiting Scholar, University of North Carolina, "The Unwritten Volume of the New" [unfortunately absent]

Plenary Session (Re)Aligning H.D.
Chair: Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Temple University

Cyrena Pondrom, University of Wisconsin-Madison, "H.D. and the Rise of the Communal and Visionary Voice in Anglo-American Modernism"
C.D. Blanton, Princeton University, "ParaRhythms: The Lateral Logic of Incidents and Endings"
Adelaide Morris, University of Iowa, "Aligning H.D."

Second Session

(Trans)National Ties
Chair: Mary-Jo Haronian, Lehigh University

Celena Kusch, Penn State University, "Transatlantic H.D.: A Triangle of Friendship"
Donna Hollenberg, "'The Deeper Unsatisfied War': Robert Duncan's Poems for H.D."
Annette Debo, Western Carolina University, "H.D.'s American Landscape: The Power and Permanence of Place"

Erotics and the Mystical
Chair: Cassandra Laity, Drew University

Shannon McRae, Fredonia State University, "'Tear us an Altar': Erotic Violence and Prophecy in H.D."
Rob Spirko, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, "'The Perfect Bi-': Sexuality, Mystical Affect, and Identity in HERmione and Nights"
Jane Augustine, "Loved by the Gods": H.D., Orgasm and Divine Ecstasy" [unfortunately absent]

Keynote Address, Susan Stanford Friedman, University of Wisconsin-Madison [spoke about and read from her then new book, Analyzing Freud: Letters of H.D., Bryher, and Their Circle]

Poetry reading

Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Cynthia Hogue, Jane Augustine, Craig Arnold, Heather Thomas, Charlotte Mandel & possibly others


Tour of H.D. Sites in Bethlehem

Third Session

H.D.'s Scientific Imagination
Chair: Elizabeth A. Dolan, Lehigh University

Lara Vetter, University of Maryland at College Park, "The 'electric fervour' of H.D.'s Modernist Artist: Sexuality, Science, and Spiritualism"
Brent M. Blackwell, Purdue University, "The Quantum Nature of the Image in H.D.'s Trilogy"
Stephanie Hawkins, SUNY at Buffalo, "Marie Curie of Modernism: H.D.'s 'new autobiographical directive' in The Gift"

Feminist Methodologies
Chair: Dawn Keetley, Lehigh University

Marina Camboni, Università degli Studi di Macerata (Italy), "H.D., London and the Suffragist Vortex"
Tenley Diefenbach, Drew University [NO TITLE YET]
Patrizia Muscoguiri, University of Salford (UK), "From 'shipwrecked mariners' to insurgent breakers: (re)empowering women writers"

Final Plenary Session

Mourning and Resistance in H.D.'s War Poetry
Chair: Patricia Ingham, Lehigh University

Rebecca Wisor, City University of New York, "(Wo)Men's War Work"
Kerry Manders, York University, "The "Strange Magic" of Memory: H.D.'s Trilogy" Madelyn Detloff, Miami University of Ohio, "Re-scripting Atrocity: H.D. and Public Mourning"

The conference concluded with a walk around H.D. sites in Bethlehem, including the cemetery, Church Street, and Main Street.


The Newly Emerging H.D.:an announcement
Jane Augustine

The University Press of Florida will publish three prose works by H.D. in 2009: Majic Ring (1943-44), edited by Demetres Tryphonopoulos, The White Rose and the Red (1948), edited by Alison Halsall, and my edition of The Mystery (1949-51). The press aims to have all three volumes ready for the Modernist Studies Association conference in November 2009--an exciting prospect. All three volumes are extensively introduced and annotated, as with The Gift by H.D.: The Complete Text (1942-44), my edition published by UPF in 1998, and The Sword Went Out to Sea (1946-47), edited by Cynthia Hogue and Julie Vandivere, published in 2007. These are highly intertextual with one another and with H.D.'s other works written at the same time, notably Trilogy and Tribute to Freud. H.D. herself offers a guide to the interconnections in "H.D. by Delia Alton," (1949-50), published in The Iowa Review 16:3 (1986), edited by Adalaide Morris, which should be read alongside of them. Taken together, these works present an enlarged view of H.D.'s intellectual, spiritual and creative path between 1941 and 1951, the decade in which her spiritualist involvements began and ended. It is bracketed by The Gift and The Mystery, both of which draw on history of the Unitas Fratrum, called the Moravian church, to which her mother's family belonged and from which H.D. believed, through spiritualism, that she had obtained a psychic "gift" co-terminous with her literary gift. The sense of "giftedness" compelled her to invent new genres in which she mixes historical fact and imaginative interpretation, seeing them as of equal weight within her construction of reality. For her, during World War Two the séance table messages were "more real" than the bombs falling outside of her flat. For the H.D. scholar the reality now is the text on the page -- H.D.'s actual words, the bedrock reality from which scholarship on any author has to start if it is to be original and useful. These newly edited texts are a reality which presents great opportunities. They raise questions that scholars are already beginning to explore. For instance, Brenda Helt has been looking at the complete Gift to ask questions about its genre -- not novel, not autobiography -- and about the relation of H.D.'s invented genres to her invented pseudonyms. Helt even challenges our continual collective use of the initials "H.D." as not always an accurate designation. The dialogue with her on these questions opened my mind to aspects of H.D. I hadn't thought of before. It was a delightful moment, exactly the result one wants from a scholarly effort: that other people will pick it up and take it further. We're beginning to see a newly emerging H.D.; the artist as intellectual and philosopher, capabilities for which poets in general and women poets in particular are hardly ever credited. It's a sea-change. I hope for many more mind-opening moments for all of us from this new batch of books.

Sarah Dillon, "Palimpsesting: Reading and Writing Lives in H. D.'s 'Murex: War and Postwar London (circa A. D. 1916-1926)'" in Critical Survey, vol. 19 no. 1 (June 2007) pp. 29-39.
NOTE: Some databases inaccurately give "January" as the month of publication.

Judith Brown, "Borderline, Sensation, and the Machinery of Expression."
Modernism/modernity vol. 14 no. 4 (November 2007) pp. 687-705.

Amy Evans has recently published '''Resurrected Against the Rules': Robert Duncan's H.D." in The Wolf poetry magazine (London) ed. James Byrne, issue 17, April 2008. The article forms part of the magazine's launch of a critical section. The magazine's website is available at www.wolfmagazine.co.uk.

H.D. Trilogía. Translated by Natalia Carbajosa. Barcelona: Lumen, 2008. Bi-lingual edition. See the Reviews section for a review.


H.D., The Sword Went Out to Sea (Synthesis of a Dream), by Delia Alton. Ed. Cynthia Hogue and Julie Vandivere. (UP of Florida, 2007). Reviewed by Anthony Head, "Locked in Fragments," Times Literary Supplement (15 February 2008) p.8.

H.D., Trilogía. Translated by Natalia Carbajosa. (Barcelona: Lumen, 2008). Reviewed by A. Sáenz de Zaitegui, El Cultural (10 July 2008). Read the full (and enthusiastic) review at http://www.elcultural.es/Hist_print.asp?c=23194.

Miranda B. Hickman, The Geometry of Modernism: The Vorticist Idiom in Lewis, Pound, H.D., and Yeats (University of Texas Press, 2006). Reviewed by Brian M. Reed (University of Washington, Seattle) in Modernism/modernity vol. 14 no. 2 (April 2007) pp. 365-367.

Rachel Potter, Modernism and Democracy: Literary Culture 1900-1930 (Oxford UP, 2006). Reviewed by Jason Harding (Durham University) in Modernism/modernity vol. 15 no. 2 (April 2008) pp.398-400.

Paul Robeson: Portraits of the Artist. This DVD set, which includes Borderline, was reviewed by Michael Brooke, "Race Odyssey," in Sight & Sound vol. 17 no. 6 (June 2007) p.84.

Caroline Winterer, The Mirror of Antiquity: American Women and the Classical Tradition, 1750-1900. (Cornell UP, 2007). Reviewed by Peter Cohee, Boston Latin School. Read the full review at http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/2008/2008-03-09.html.

Mark Payne, Theocritus and the Invention of Fiction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Reviewed by Owen Hodkinson, University of Wales Lampeter. Read the full review at http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/2008/2008-06-13.html.


In the December 2008 issue of HD's Web a short bibliography was offered on HD and the occult. Amy Evans, who originated the mini-bibliography in a list post, writes that "if anyone is interested in more direction to those texts or to further reading…they are welcome to contact me" at alpevans@hotmail.com .

Ed. note:
War, not surprisingly, has been a lot on my mind in the past few years. War is also a major theme of H.D.'s work, especially why (and by whom) it is waged, whether and how its iron ring could be broken, and how to survive and even find sources of life despite it. So in this issue I put forth a brief bibliography of scholarship on HD and war. If readers have more items to contribute or corrections to make, please e-mail me at msfox67@hotmail.com .

Boehnen, Scott. "'H.D., War Poet' and the 'Language Fantasy' of Trilogy." Sagetrieb vol. 14, nos. 1-2 (Spring-Fall 1995) pp. 179-200.

Burnett, Gary. "A Poetics out of War: H.D.'s Responses to the First World War." Agenda vol. 25 nos. 3-4 (Autumn-Winter 1987-1988) pp.54-63.

Camboni, Marina. "Not Pity But Love. H.D.'s World War II." IN Red Badges of Courage: Wars and Conflicts in American Culture. Eds. Biancamarie Pisapia, Ugo Rubeo, and Anna Scacchi. RSA: Rivista di Studi Anglo-Americani vol. 9 no. 11. Rome, Italy: Bulzoni, 1998. pp. 580-589.

Detloff, Madelyn. "'Father, Don't You see I'm Burning?: Identification and Re-Membering in H.D.'s World War II Writing." IN Incest and the Literary Imagination. Ed. Elizabeth Barnes. Gainesville, Florida: UP of Florida, 2002. pp. 249-280.

Dillon, Sarah. "Palimpsesting: Reading and Writing Lives in H.D.'s 'Murex: War and Postwar London (circa A.D. 1916-1926)'." Critical Survey vol. 19 no. 1 (2007) pp.29-39.

Edmunds, Susan. "'I Read the Writing When He Seized My Throat': Hysteria and Revolution in H.D.'s Helen in Egypt." Contemporary Literature vol. 32 (Winter 1991) pp. 470-495.

Graham, Sarah H. S. "'We Have a Secret. We Are Alive': H.D.'s Trilogy as a Response to War." Texas Studies in Literature and Language vol. 44 no. 2 (Summer 2002) pp. 161-210.

Hindrichs, Cheryl. "H.D.'s Palimpsest: The Work of the 'Advance-Guard' in a History of Trauma." The Space Between vol. 2 no. 1 (2006) pp.87-112.

Hollenberg, Donna Krolik. "'New Puritans' in a Civilian War: Letters between H.D. and Norman Holmes Pearson (1941-1946)." Sagetrieb vol. 14 nos. 1-2 (Spring-Fall 1995) pp. 27-81.

Johnson, Jeannine. Why Write Poetry?: Modern Poets Defending Their Art. Madison, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 2007.

Kelvin, Norman. "H.D. and the Years of World War I." Victorian Poetry vol. 38 no. 1 (Spring 2000) pp. 170-196.

Kibble, Matthew. "The 'Still-Born Generation': Decadence and the Great War in H.D.'s Fiction." MFS: Modern Fiction Studies vol. 44 no. 3 (Fall 1998) pp. 540-567.

Miller, Marlowe Allyson. "Family, War, and Writing: H.D., Virginia Woolf, and Marguerite Duras." Dissertation Abstracts International vol. 52 no. 8 (February 1992) pp. 2916A-2917A.

Moreland, Deborah Anne. "The Suffragettes, the Great War, and Representation in H.D.'s Asphodel." Sagetrieb vol. 14 nos. 1-2 (Spring-Fall 1995) pp. 243-272.

Morris, Adalaide. "Signaling: Feminism, Politics, and Mysticism in H.D.'s War Trilogy." Sagetrieb vol. 9 no. 3 (Winter 1990) pp.121-133.

Roessel, David. "H.D.'s Troy: Some Bearings." H. D. Newsletter vol. 3 no. 2 (1990) pp. 38-42.

Rogers, Catherine Ann. "'In Memory of the Body': Dangerous Memory as Political Discourse in H.D.'s Helen in Egypt." Dissertation Abstracts International vol. 55 no. 10 (April 1995) p. 3193A.

Rosen, Victoria Potts. "H.D. and Adrienne Rich: Feminist Poetic Responses to War." Dissertation Abstracts International vol. 51 no. 6 (December 1990) p. 2050A.

Schulte, Raphael. "Silence in the Apocalyptic Gardens, Graves, and Greenhouses: 'War' Poems by H.D., Robert Lowell, and Theodore Roethke." Fu Jen Studies: Literature and Linguistics vol. 25 (1992) pp. 1-19.

Scoggan, John William. "De(con)structive Poetics: Readings of Hilda Doolittle's The War Trilogy." Dissertations Abstracts International vol. 44 no. 1 (July 1983) p. 167A.

Spiro, Joanna Emily. "Facing Texts: Autobiographical Reckonings with the Second World War in Woolf, H.D., Duras, and Perec." Dissertation Abstracts International vol. 57 no. 11 (May 1997) p. 4732A.

Twitchell-Waas, Jeffrey. "Seaward: H.D.'s Helen in Egypt as a Response to Pound's Cantos." Twentieth Century Literature vol. 44 no. 4 (Winter 1998) pp. 464-483.

Willis, Elizabeth. "A Public History of the Dividing Line: H.D., the Bomb, and the Roots of the Postmodern." Arizona Quarterly vol. 63 no. 1 (Spring 2007) pp. 81-108. (Thanks to Cynthia Hogue for this reference.)

Zilboorg, Caroline. "The Centre of the Cyclone: Gender and Genre in H.D.'s War Novel." IN Dressing Up for War: Transformations of Gender and Genre in the Discourse and Literature of War. Eds. Aránzazu Usandizaga and Andrew Monnickendam. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Rodopi, 2001. pp. 27-27.


For those interested in finding out more about Kathleen Fraser, go to The Register of Kathleen Fraser Papers (1957-2006) at Mandeville Special Collections Library, Geisel Library, University of California at San Diego:


David E. Lane is writing a one-woman play about HD. He is working with director David Hammond and actor Tandy Cronyn. HD's Web hopes to post an essay by David about the choice of material, the process of writing, etc...but he's in the middle of writing a play, so he's kind of busy. Stay tuned (or the internet equivalent).

Listen to HD reading from Helen in Egypt at http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/HD.html.
(Explore their archive: it's wonderful.)

You may hear an HD text set to music ("Never more will the wind") by William Bolcom, sung by soprano Carole Farley (accompanied on piano by Bolcom). The song is part of a cycle ("I Will Breathe a Mountain") on the album William Bolcom, Songs, published (appropriately?) by Naxos Records (2005).

HD's poetry is also included in the choral and orchestral work by Richard Danielpour, An American Requiem (Reference Recordings, 2002). The piece is about the suffering and insanity of war. Read the composer's program notes at http://www.schirmer.com/default.aspx?TabId=2420&State_2874=2&workId_2874=27128.

For the Chicago Reader review of (Side Project Theater) Jennifer Shook's May 2007 production of HD's play Ion, go to http://www.chicagoreader.com/features/stories/theaterreviews/2007/070511/. (A different review, posted by Time Out Chicago, was linked in the December 2007 issue of HD's Web.)


Here is where you can see photographs of HD sites:

One is the historical marker in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, which reads:
Hilda Doolittle (H.D.)
The renowned poet was born here on September 10, 1886; died in Zurich, September 27, 1961. H.D. sought the Hellenic spirit and a classic beauty of expression. She is buried in nearby Nisky Hill Cemetery. 'O, give me burning blue.'"

The other is her gravestone, which reads:
Hilda Doolittle Aldington
Sept. 10, 1866
Sept. 27, 1961
"So you may say,
Greek flower; Greek ecstasy
reclaims forever
one who died
intricate song's lost measure."

Catherine Aldington, daughter of Richard Aldington, has an essay "Poet on the Couch: H.D. with Freud" posted at http://imagists.org/aldington/hd_freud.html .

In case you are stranded without your HD books but have a web-browsing device handy, you can go to The Online Books Page, and read some early work: Hymen, Sea Garden, and poems in Some Imagist Poems: An Anthology. http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/book/lookupname?key=H%2e%20D%2e%20%28Hilda%20Doolittle%29%2c%201886%2d1961

Perhaps you need a quotation from HD? Then you may find 467 choices offered to you, courtesy The Columbia World of Quotations (1996) at Bartleby.com.


HD's Web notes with sadness the passing of Burton Hatlen, Professor of English at the University of Maine and Director of the National Poetry Foundation. He will be greatly missed. To read more about this remarkable and generous man, go to:


I've gathered some information from the H.D. Society List archives, but you can also search them yourself. Go to: http://listserv.uconn.edu/hdsoc-l.html and select "Search the archives." You may have to create a password if you haven't set one up already. Or search with e-mail commands. For more information, go to the Listserv users' manual and select the format you prefer at:
(Thanks, Heather Hernandez.)


For back issues of the original (printed) HD Newsletter, please contact Eileen Gregory, neileengregory@sbcglobal.net . There are 8 issues in all, available for the cost of mailing and copying. (Some issues are available in photocopied form only.)


Frank Kermode, "Ezra Conquers London," The New York Review of Books vol. 55 no. 7 (1 May 2008). Review of Ezra Pound: A Portrait of the Man and His Work, Volume 1: The Young Genius, 1885-1920 by A. David Moody (Oxford UP, 2008).

"Preview" of article:
"The history of literature is punctuated by differences of opinion sometimes too strong to be regarded as mere literary quarrels. The most important and probably the most painful American example was the row over the award, in February 1949, of the first Bollingen Poetry Prize to Ezra Pound for his book The Pisan Cantos, a work that expressed certain opinions almost universally execrated in the United States and elsewhere. The jury explained that in honoring Pound they had foreseen, but found reasons to discount, objections to their choice, arguing that..." To read the rest of the article online, go to
(Thanks, David Lane.)

Louis Menand, "The Pound Error: The Elusive Master of Allusion," The New Yorker (9 June 2008).
(Thanks, Lisa Simon.)

The new issue of the New Canterbury Literary Society News (The Richard Aldington Newsletter) can be found at http://www.imagists.org/aldington/nclsn.html.

To subscribe to the Pound Listserv, now "owned" by Betsy Graves Rose of the National Poetry Foundation, send an e-mail to: listserv@lists.maine.edu
In the body of the e-mail, enter: subscribe epound-l your name
(e.g., "subscribe epound-l Betsy Rose")
and be sure to delete anything else in the body of the e-mail, such as an automatic signature block.
Questions about the ListServ may be addressed to betsy.rose@umit.maine.edu .
(Thank you, Betsy Rose.)

Back to H.D.'s Web, or to the H.D. Home Page
H.D.'s Web: No.2 (summer 2008)
Published August 22, 2008; last updated October 5, 2008 (http://www.imagists.org/hd/hdsweb/summer2008.html
Please send comments and suggestions to hh@imagists.org