By Courtney Mullis (English PhD) and Indy Recker (English PhD)
The work of literary scholarship most often means looking inside of a text. Studies of the avant-garde movement, however, demonstrate that scholars can and should also learn about texts by understanding texts’ connections to larger artistic and cultural movements. In the spirit of the en dehors garde, digital mapping turns outside of the text and demonstrates the importance of connections between texts, artists, authors, and historical contexts.
In our project, “Mina Loy in Paris” we seek to make these connections documenting various figures, texts, and concepts of modernist art and literature in the early twentieth century and explore the potential of digital mapping to offer new ways forward in literary studies. We also mark the successes and challenges that we encountered in learning a new digital tool and offer reflections on how these successes propelled our project forward and how the challenges might move the project in new or surprising directions.
“Mina Loy in Paris” uses History Pin, a not-for-profit digital mapping site, to represent Mina Loy’s time in Paris from 1902 to 1907 and 1923 to 1927. Through our History Pin collection, we demonstrate how Loy’s life in Paris connected her to other artists and to the avant-garde movement as a whole. We use her relationship to Gertrude Stein as an example of how other scholars could expand this project in a specific direction. We also begin to illuminate Loy’s connections to other figures, offering potential routes for further expansion. We decided on our topic because of our shared interests in mapping, the city of Paris, and women’s contributions to the avant-garde. Additionally, we recognize how Loy can serve as an important nexus for understanding Surrealism, Dadaism, and Modernism.
We wanted to create a map influenced by the Paris Baedeker of 1907, which Indy found in the archives at the Carnegie Library. The discovery of this particular Baedeker was fortuitous, since 1907 marks the final year of Loy’s first tenure in Paris. Our central research questions included: What was Mina Loy’s presence in Paris from 1903-1907 and 1923-1927?; How is the avant-garde as an artistic movement manifesting in Paris during this time?; How was Loy’s poetry influenced by her residencies in Paris?; and, What are potential directions a full project might take? We decided to represent both periods of Loy’s time in Paris in order to leave our small project open for expansion in multiple directions. We hope that the open-ended format of our project leaves room for scholars with additional research questions to expand upon our work.