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Abstract

This essay advances a close reading of Mina Loy’s Songs to Joannes, a sequence of poems dedicated to her failed relationship with the futurist Giovanni Papini and published in 1917. Through a close analysis of the typographical complexities by which Songs to Joannes is characterized, I attempt to draw explicit connections between Loy’s radical approach to physical existence and sexual activity in the poems, and her equally radical departure from the conventions of poetic form. In the systematic tension between form and content, then, I illuminate the ways in which Loy’s poetry redefines the familiar concept of the ‘body of the text’ through a re-evaluation of two acts of reading: a ‘horizontal’ reading and a ‘vertical’ one. Drawing on the linguistic theory of Ferdinand de Saussure, I argue that Songs to Joannes – as both a long poem composed of various fragments, and a self-standing unit – might be placed in the position of the ‘sign’. In support of this, I read Songs ‘horizontally’, drawing attention to the narrative and generic aspects of the poems as they unfold in time, and in succession. I then propose a ‘vertical’ approach to the Songs, in which theories of lexical semantics play a pivotal role. Finally, I consider the metonymical aspect of the Songs, making particular reference to the ways in which they problematize the concept of the ‘sign’. Given that the term ‘feminism’ is now applied to a multitude of contradictory theoretical and socio-political positions, a special effort will also be made to define Loy’s own peculiar brand of feminist thought, and to identify the nature of its influence upon her creative praxis.

Note on the Author

Lucia Pietroiusti wrote this essay for an American Poetry module during her BA degree in English Literature with French, which she completed at Trinity College, Dublin. Following this degree, Lucia completed an M.Phil course in Women and Gender Studies. Lucia’s final dissertation, ‘Material Encounters: Mapping Mourning, Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Art, Towards a Transitional Conceptualisation of Matter’, pursued the themes of gender and mourning in the creation of meaning, with an emphasis on contemporary art practice. Lucia lives in Dublin, and currently works in the Curatorial Department of the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

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