Mabel Dodge Luhan:
Musing the Avant-Garde

By Jesse Jack (English PhD), Brent Dipuma (English MA), Jillian Bennion (English PhD)

Duquesne University

archival photo of Mabel Dodge's Villa Curonia in Florence, Italy.
Villa Curonia. Mabel Dodge Luhan Papers, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

In creating Mabel Dodge Luhan: Musing the Avant-Garde, our team sought to take an unconventional approach to understanding Dodge through her multifaceted relations with those whom she gathered and mused in her Greenwich Village and Florence salons between the years of 1912-1914. The digital humanities, as we will argue throughout this work, proctors new tools for reconstructing historical figures like Mabel Dodge through visual, textual, and contextual means, which we have implemented via network maps, photographs, and diary entries.

As Dodge held prominent salons in New York’s Greenwich Village and Florence, her work and personality drew others to her in an organic and deeply inspiring way. Rather than positioning herself as a social hub, she used her artistic inspirations to gather artists about her and inspire their genius. It was Mabel Dodge’s relationship to other avant-garde figures that became the inspiration for our project, including each individual elements and the larger, final project as a whole. Our group decided to take an unconventional approach to understanding Dodge by methodologically tracing her body, positionality, and her inspiration through her social connections. One of the most interesting and supporting elements of Mabel Dodge and her importance as an avant-garde figure an as a woman artist is her detailed writings about her own life and the people with whom she interacted. The author of the autobiography Movers and Shakers, Mabel Dodge Luhan was quite the social influencer. Dodge gathered many primary avant-garde artists and writers together at her salons in Greenwich Village and Florence respectively, 23 Fifth Avenue and Villa Curonia. Her visitors influenced her as much as she influenced them, resulting in a figure without whom the modernist movement would not have been as prevalent.

This project sought to render the world of Mabel Dodge a visual, textual, and conceptual reality by re-instantiating Dodge’s unique perspective and world-view through digital means. It includes:

  1. Salons: locations & visuals
  2. Gelphi visual network map
  3. Gallery of individuals described by Dodge