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c h ap t e r f ive A Familiar and Warm Relationship Race, Sexual Freedom, and U.S. Literary Modernism One of the problems in discussing an “American” modernism or avant-garde before the 1920s is the confusion about whether one is talking about art and artistic circles within the United States or whether one includes such expatriates as Henry James,T. S. Eliot,Gertrude Stein, and Ezra Pound.While it certainly makes sense to include the expatriates, doing sowithout some attention to their geographic location has given rise to distorted notions about modernism and U.S. bohemia, creating a vision of modernism centered in the United States that is far more apolitical (or even politically conservative ), racist, anti-Semitic, masculinist (and actually misogynist) than was actually the case. This distortion has been only partly corrected by more recent scholarship on feminist modernism (and modernist feminism) and the “Lyrical Left” of Greenwich Village and Towertown during the first two decades of the twentieth century by such scholars as Christine Stansell, Suzanne Churchill, and Franklin Rosemont—but only Rosemont really recognizes the contributions of African Americans to that Left milieu. Again, one thing that distinguished early bohemia in the United States from its western European counterparts by and large was the degree to which it was connected to organized political radicalism (e.g., the Socialist Party, the IWW, the early Communist parties [the Communist Labor Party and the Communist Party of America], and smaller Marxist and anarchist groups). Radical political figures, such as Big Bill Haywood, Emma Goldman , Carlo Tresca, Lucy Parsons, and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, were familiar participants in the bohemian communities of Chicago’s Towertown and New York’s Greenwich Village. The bohemias of London and Paris before the rise of Dada and ensuing engagement of surrealism and expressionism with Communism and/or Trotskyism were far less engaged with organized radical politics. U.S. bohemia was also marked by theway feminism and various struggles for sexual freedom were woven into its fabric. Obviously, U.S. feminism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries reached far beyond the emerging boundaries of bohemia.The ratification of the Nineteenth Amend- 156 | A FAMILIAR AND WARM RELATIONSHIP ment in 1920 demonstrates that in many respects it was a mainstream movement . The notion of a “New Woman” who redefined the economic, political , intellectual, psychological, physical, and sexual horizons of women (and men) was not restricted to bohemia and other sorts of radical enclaves but circulated widely through U.S. society. And, as Judith Schwarz notes about Hutchins Hapgood and other heterosexual male bohemians, sometimes men in Greenwich Village, Towertown, and other countercultural centers valued the erotic access that “free love” allowed them while rejecting the notion of equal rights for women (Judith Schwarz, 81–82). Still, bohemia with its overlapping worlds of political and cultural radicalism in the United States was to a large extent the home soil of radical feminist activists and organizations promoting sexual freedom, often under the cry of “free love,” and the idea of women as sexual agents and sexual citizens, both heterosexual and lesbian, as important political issues.This agency was seen as issuing primarily from the desires and actions of women under the mentorship or in the company of other women rather than the tutelage of a virile and erotic man along the lines of D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928). A significant aspect of both the bohemian conception of free love, to the extent that one can speak of it as a unified idea, and the promotion of contraception was the decoupling of women’s sexuality from procreation and the legally sanctioned nuclear family.Oncewomen were acknowledged as sexual agents not necessarily bound to family and procreation, then lesbianism (and, byextension, male homosexuality) could be seen as a legitimate subset of sexual freedom—though even in such relatively radical feminist groups as the Greenwich Village–based Heterodoxy, the identification of members as lesbians remained publicly submerged, if common on a more internal or informal level, particularly after the 1910s (Judith Schwarz, 85–93). These struggles had a particular significance and inflection for African Americans. After all, much of the power of the argument for Jim Crow segregation , particularly in popular culture, turned on the question of sexuality, both male and female. The archetypal justification for the wave of lynching and mob violence that accompanied and helped enforce the rise of Jim Crow was the alleged violation of “white womanhood” by black men...


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