Suzanne W. Churchill is Professor of English at Davidson College. She is the author of The Little Magazine Others & the Renovation of Modern American Poetry and co-editor, with Adam McKible, of Little Magazines & Modernism: New Approaches. Founding editor of the bibliographic website, Index of Modernist Magazines, she is co-creator of the peer-reviewed, digital, multimedia scholarly website Mina Loy: Navigating the Avant-Garde, which includes the digital book Mina Loy: Scholarly Book for Digital Travelers.
Suzanne W. Churchill
Although Mina Loy consorted with nearly every historical avant-garde movement, she was contained by none and is rarely mentioned in their histories. She’s not alone in this regard. Canonical histories and theories of the avant-garde typically marginalize the work of women, people of color, queer, and disabled artists. Despite significant efforts to articulate the importance of gender, sexuality, and race to the avant-garde, scholars have yet to offer a comprehensive theory of the avant-garde that accounts for the experiences of marginalized artists who were often ambivalent about claiming affiliation with white, male-dominated movements.
Writing of the Great Depression, historian John Egerton observes that, “The whole country was in pain, and the South, by almost any measure you could apply, was suffering much more than the rest of the United States." Economic distress heightened racial tensions, as southern whites tightened their hold on the precious little wealth and privilege available to signal their supremacy. Despite the grip of poverty and rigid racial hierarchies, the 1930s was a period of cultural ferment, particularly in the literary and political realms, and especially in the South. The decade witnessed a brief (but ill-fated) marriage between literary experimentation and revolutionary politics, as writers such as John Dos Passos, Langston Hughes, and Muriel Rukeyser attempted to wed modernist formal experimentation with leftist social protest.