Digital Baedeker

Mina Loy: Navigating the Avant-Garde is a collection of digital narratives and visualizations that contextualize and interpret Loy’s work and related artifacts. Enhancing access with interpretation, the scholarly website offers a curated, multimedia, interactive exhibit of selected works by Loy that effectively serves as a digital Baedeker for her archive.

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The term “Baedeker” emerged in 1826, when German publisher Verlag Karl Baedeker began to publish travel guides for cities around the world, which included introductions, fold-out maps, travel routes, and information about important sights and destinations, all written by experts. Popularly called “Baedekers,” the guides became best-sellers, were translated into multiple languages, and continue to be published today (Wikipedia).

cover of Lunar Baedeker and Time-tablesMina Loy, a world-traveler, likely relied on the guides for practical advice. She also drew upon them for imaginative inspiration, adopting the phrase “Lunar Baedeker”—guidebook to the moon—for the two volumes of her writing published in her lifetime:

  • Lunar Baedecker [sic] (Contact Publishing Co., 1923).
  • The Lunar Baedeker & Time-Tables (Jonathan Williams, 1958)

Posthumous collections of her work have used the same title phrase:

  • The Last Lunar Baedeker (Jargon Society, 1982).
  • The Lost Lunar Baedeker: Poems of Mina Loy (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1996).

In continuing this tradition and describing our website as a “digital baedeker,” we acknowledge Loy’s ingenious use of innovative forms to navigate real and imagined territory, as well as contemporary readers’ need for a new kind of guidebook for navigating her complex archive. 

Mina Loy: Navigating the Avant-Garde documents Loy’s avant-garde affiliations and pursues new modes of textual and visual expression in order to invite a closer, more informed engagement with her work. Our goals are to:  

  • provide access to and interpretations of Loy’s verbal and visual work, much of which remains buried in archives or private collections;
  • transform close reading through multimodal tools and environments that activate verbal and visual reading practices;
  • develop a crowd-sourced, flash-mob, feminist theory that accounts for the contributions of women and people of color to the en dehors garde;
  • conduct an experiment in public humanities scholarship that involves scholars and students in transforming scholarly methods and products, tests new processes for peer review, and sets UX design standards for digital scholarship.

Our aim is not to create a comprehensive digital archive, but to provide an online platform for accessing and understanding Loy’s writing, artwork, and life. Using Loy as a case study, our project aims to broaden understanding of the diversity of avant-garde production and activate a network of interested readers and scholars. Mina Loy: Navigating the Avant-Garde demonstrates how digital tools can transform humanities scholarship from the traditional model of a lone scholar writing a monograph to a team of researchers collaborating on a “multigraph”—an interactive, multi-authored, multimodal resource that sets UX design standards for DH scholarship.

We have transformed our scholarly methods and products in order to involve undergraduates, graduate students, professors, librarians, and IT professionals as equal partners in the production of original humanities research. Students contribute to New Frequencies as authors, coders, and creators of innovative Loy scholarship. Our UX design affords equal prominence and value to their work, while allowing for experimentation with new tools and formats for humanities research. Scholars contribute interlinked Chapters, which provide expert analysis and narrative frameworks for making sense of Loy’s experimental art and writing. The question of “how we read” remains central to our website design, which seeks to transform Close Readings, rendering the practice more interactive and embedded in social, material, and historical contexts.

We invite you to explore our interpretations of Loy’s work, rethink existing theories of the avant garde, and participate in the formation of a new, feminist theory of the avant-garde—what we’re call the “en dehors garde,” in order to account for artists who came from the outside and worked on the margins.