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The American H.D.

Annette Debo

Publication Year: 2012

In The American H.D., Annette Debo considers the significance of nation in the artistic vision and life of the modernist writer Hilda Doolittle. Her versatile career stretching from 1906 to 1961, H.D. was a major American writer who spent her adult life abroad; a poet and translator who also wrote experimental novels, short stories, essays, reviews, and a children’s book; a white writer with ties to the Harlem Renaissance; an intellectual who collaborated on avant-garde films and film criticism; and an upper-middle-class woman who refused to follow gender conventions. Her wide-ranging career thus embodies an expansive narrative about the relationship of modernism to the United States and the nuances of the American nation from the Gilded Age to the Cold War.


Making extensive use of material in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale—including correspondences, unpublished autobiographical writings, family papers, photographs, and Professor Norman Holmes Pearson’s notes for a planned biography of H.D.—Debo’s American H.D. reveals details about its subject never before published. Adroitly weaving together literary criticism, biography, and cultural history, The American H.D. tells a new story about the significance of this important writer.


Written with clarity and sincere affection for its subject, The American H.D. brings together a sophisticated understanding of modernism, the poetry and prose of H.D., the personalities of her era, and the historical and cultural context in which they developed: America’s emergence as a dominant economic and political power that was riven by racial and social inequities at home.


Published by: University of Iowa Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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p. vii

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pp. ix-xviii

Upon repatriating, Hilda Doolittle, known by her initials “H.D.,” wrote that she was “charmed—enchanted & happy to be re-newed, returned” to the United States.1 Her repatriation took place at age seventy-two, when she filed the papers and took the oath of allegiance...

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pp. xix-xxi

It is with great pleasure that I bring this lengthy project to a close and have an opportunity to thank the many people involved from its beginning to this final form. I would like to thank my colleagues in the H.D. community who have both supported me and challenged my ideas in productive ways...

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Introduction: The Modern Nation, Identity, and H.D.

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pp. 1-23

In her short story “Two Americans,” H.D. stresses the arbitrary nature of nations. Her character Raymonde muses, “States, people, nations—it was all a matter of a slice of water or a muddy river or the shattered edge of a blood-spattered precipice, to go by” (68). At the moment...

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1. Her Early American Scene: H.D., Pennsylvania,and Marianne Moore

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pp. 25-69

At the time of H.D.’s birth in 1886, the United States had only recently entered into existence as a true “nation-state” rather than a loosely associated group of states, as discussed in the previous chapter. The role of the federal government was increasing...

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2. America’s Second Great Period of Literary Creation: Nation and H.D.’s Literary Imagination

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pp. 71-126

After perusing the 1938 Oxford Anthology of American Literature, H.D. pronounced it “a very heady and hearty sort of Family Bible.”1 Her act of labeling this collection of American literature both a sacred and a familial text demonstrates her proclivity to consider herself an...

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3. Plants and Trees Make Countries: H.D.’s Sacred Land

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pp. 127-150

In 1943 H.D. shared with May Sarton “an idea latent in my own mind— that plants and trees make countries, for us poets.”1 With this statement, H.D. articulated the intimate tie between landscape and nation in her literary imagination, and she presaged Bhabha’s idea...

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4. America Cannot Hold Unless Black Meets White: The Harlem Renaissance’s Transatlantic Influence

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pp. 151-175

In H.D.’s “Two Americans,” the U.S. reenters Raymonde’s expatriate life in Switzerland through the visit of two African Americans, Saul and Paula Howard: “ ‘Mohammed and the mountain,’ said Raymonde, facing, as it happened, the ridge of the French Grammont...

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5. A Woman’s Age: Nation and Women

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pp. 177-207

After American women were denied inclusion in the Fifteenth Amendment, which granted African American men the vote, the (Susan B.) Anthony Amendment was proposed in 1878 and would be introduced in every session of Congress for the next...

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Epilogue: Frankly and Frenziedly American

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pp. 209-212

In H.D.’s Hirslanden Notebooks, autobiographical writings that seamlessly flow between dream interpretations, past memories, and her current life in 1957, H.D. shifts rapidly between key aspects of her identity—her incipient motherhood when confined to a hospital while sick with the...


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pp. 213-228

Works Cited

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pp. 229-250


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pp. 251-262

E-ISBN-13: 9781609380939
E-ISBN-10: 1609380932
Print-ISBN-13: 9781609380830
Print-ISBN-10: 1609380835

Publication Year: 2012

OCLC Number: 782916507
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The American H.D.

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Subject Headings

  • H. D. -- (Hilda Doolittle), -- 1886-1961 -- Criticism and interpretation.
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