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Φ "She herself is the writing": Language and Sexual Identity in H.D. Nora Crow Jaffe In March 1933, the poet-novelist Hilda Doolittle (H.D.) took up residence in Vienna to begin four months of analysis with Freud. Her first sessions ended in illness when her companion and lover, Winifred EUerman (Bryher), made an energetic entrance into the world of Viennese psychoanalysis where H.D. was precariously settled.1 Then, after a markedly creative hiatus, news of the death of the analysand whose hour with Freud had preceded hers precipitated a brief but serious breakdown; she resumed her analysis with him in October 1934. By early December, Freud had apparently declared the sessions "finished ," although H.D. implies that the imminence of war aborted the analysis and prevented her from resolving the problems she associated with the previous world cataclysm: "The war closed on us, before I had time to sort out, relive, and reassemble the singular series of events and dreams that belonged in historical time to the 1914-1919 period."2 The terms H.D. chooses—"sort out," "relive," "reassemble"— might seem appropriate for a typical analytic program, yet the "events and dreams" she alludes to were hardly ordinary. They defined her place at the center of the intensely bohemian circle that dominated Anglo-American modernism. At the same time, they left her bewildered almost to the point of wordlessness. What followed her analysis was a long life, no less intense, but more satisfying for the person and more fruitful for the poet. In her work with Freud, she began the process of puzzling out the links between her sexual identity and her art that finally permitted her freer expression. Enlightenment came, Nora Crow Jaffe 87 in the course of analysis, when "transference" merged with "translation ," and what she loved and what she said became more nearly one. The resolution of her sexual conflict provided a bridge "across the abyss" that had lain between her and the fuller enjoyment of her gifts. Of the problem and its resolution, I intend to give a narrative account, fashioned—in large part—out of H.D.'s own words. If a Spear Could Bloom Born in 1886 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to Charles Doolittle, professor of astronomy, and Helen Wolle Doolittle, teacher of music and adherent of the mystical Moravian sect, H.D. found her first suitors in William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound. She was engaged to Pound in 1907, but the engagement did not survive his expulsion from Wabash College (for entertaining a woman in his rooms) and the discovery that he had also given a ring to one Mary Moore of New Jersey. In the interval succeeding the engagement, H.D. was consoled by her attachment to Frances Josepha Gregg, who came to represent a sexual complement as well as a much desired twin-sister. In her roman à clef HERmione, written in 1927 and not among her best works, H.D. merges the physical and emotional identities of the heroine ("Her") and the alter ego ("Fayne Rabb") so thoroughly that they cannot be separated in the reading: The mouth was straight now, the mouth of a boy-hunter.. . . Across the shoulders there was a strap holding arrows. Marble lifted from marble and showed a boy.. . . "I mean you were so exactly right in that stage tunic. You were so exactly right as that Pygmalion." Her bent forward, face bent toward Her. A face bends towards me and a curtain opens. . . . Curtains part as I look into the eyes of Fayne Rabb. "And I—I'll make you breathe, my breathless statue." "Statue? You—you are the statue." Curtains fell, curtains parted, curtains filled the air with heavy swooping purple. Lips long since half kissed away. Curled lips long since half kissed away.' In 1911, H.D. set sail for Europe with Frances and Mrs. Gregg. She was largely to remain there, an expatriate American, until her death in Switzerland in 1961. In September 1912, in the tearoom of the British Museum, H.D. showed her poem "Hermes of the Ways" to Pound, who had preceded her to Europe. "Why, Dryad, this is good!" he declared; then, having made a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6571
Print ISSN
0278-9671
Pages
pp. 86-111
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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