Mabel Dodge (Luhan)

Barolini, Helen. “Mabel Dodge Luhan: In Search of a Personal South.” Their Other Side: Six American Women and the Lure of Italy. New York: Fordham University Press, 2006. 129-75. Web. This book investigates six American women—Margaret Fuller, Emily Dickinson, Constance Fenimore Woolson, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Marguerite Caetani, and Iris Origo—for whom Italy “came to signify release from some control” or “a transforming catalyst,” whether these women ever set foot in Italy or not (xv). Each chapter reconstructs what Italy meant to each woman intellectually, artistically, and biographically. Barolini wishes to understand the relationship these women have with Italy in order to understand her own relationship to the country; she writes in a narrative, personal style, and does not to speak to an academic audience. Barolini recreates Dodge’s “perfumed existence” at Villa Curonia (her home in Florence) and the salon she created there (143). This portrait of Dodge places her among her artist friends, citing their recollections of her while also citing critical sources, such as historians and biographers. Barolini’s chapter culminates in her assertion that Dodge was not the quintessential “New Woman,” and embodied ideals seemingly opposed to those of the New Woman (174).

Burke, Carolyn. Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1996. Print. In this biography of Mina Loy, a friend of Mabel Dodge’s, Burke recreates “the imaginative landscapes created and inhabited by this quirky new woman,” Mina Loy (ix). Part of Burke’s project is to place Loy among her modernist friends, organizing the book by geographic location, beginning with Loy’s early life in London before moving through Europe and eventually to New York and Colorado. In the “Florence” section of the biography, Burke presents Mabel Dodge as Loy’s liaison to other American artists in Italy (119). The close friendship between Loy and Dodge manifested in letter writing, and in some of these letters, Loy developed her feminist theory with Dodge’s support. Rather than reprinting these letters as they become relevant to the narrative of Loy’s life, Burke references single lines from the letters as though Loy’s letters to Dodge were events. Burke presents Dodge as a confidant to Loy, focusing on their silent and written correspondence rather than their spoken conversations and meetings at Dodge’s salon.

Luhan, Mabel Dodge, Gertrude Stein, and Patricia R. Everett. A History of Having Many Times Not Continued to Be Friends: The Correspondence Between Mabel Dodge and Gertrude Stein, 1911-1934. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1996. Web. This collection of letters records Dodge’s written correspondence with Gertrude Stein, as well as Stein’s portrait of Dodge at Villa Curonia and photographs of Dodge and Stein, together and apart. This book recreates the friendship of Dodge and Stein—two salon dames—over twenty years through primary source material transcribed by Everett; she makes no edits and refrains from even correcting spelling mistakes (xv). Everett provides context for the letters in a narrative style before transcribing a letter, and writes her own commentary on the content of each letter after reproducing it in full. Dodge and Stein also track Mina Loy’s career in their letters; sometimes Loy is mentioned in casual conversation between Dodge and Stein, but other times they mention her work, such as “Aphorisms on Futurism” (228). Everett uses biographical and scholarly sources to fill in the narrative gaps between Dodge and Stein’s letters; she thus writes to an academic audience, since her commentary is spatially separated from the letters and thus easy to skip over, as well as an audience that seeks to build an understanding of the friendship between Dodge and Stein.

Rudnick, Lois Palken. Mabel Dodge Luhan: New Woman, New Worlds. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1984. Print. This biography pairs narratives about the life of Mabel Dodge with sections detailing Dodge’s relationships with the writers around her, especially those who wrote her into their work. Rudnick, a biographer of Dodge’s, draws from Dodge’s own memoirs and fictionalized versions of her (in others’ writing) in order to reconstruct her life, briefly summarizing Dodge’s life before Florence before delving into her time in Italy and continuing into Dodge’s life in the 1940s in the U.S. This biography focuses on Dodge’s role as an “artist-of-life”—in other words, Dodge helped to shape the creative visions of those around her (xii). Rudnick’s chapter about Dodge’s life in Europe details the locus of Dodge’s European salon, Villa Curonia, recreating the environment in which other writers would draw inspiration from Dodge and later write her into their work. Rudnick familiarizes her audience with Dodge’s relationships to other writers, but writes to an audience already acquainted with Stein’s poetry, for example. By mixing narrative with passages of poetry and creative prose, Rudnick creates a hybrid of narrative and academic styles.

Rudnick, Lois Palken. “The Male-Identified Woman and Other Anxieties: The Life of Mabel Dodge Luhan.” The Challenge of Feminist Biography. Ed. Sara Alpern. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992. 116–38. Print. This anthology, including chapters written by biographers of women in the twentieth century, explores biographies that are concerned with feminism and women’s history, questioning the methods that go into writing the typically male-dominated genre of biography (3). Lois Rudnick’s chapter on Dodge investigates why Dodge “was lost to history” despite having hosted one of the most important literary salons in the twentieth century (120). Rudnick writes in a personal style but consults other biographers of Dodge, forming her own approach to biography while citing theirs. Rudnick calls Dodge a “male-identified woman,” meaning that Dodge felt as though women were defined by and dependent on the men in their lives (126). Dodge’s positive attitude toward her privilege—her wealth and her whiteness—troubles Rudnick, but focuses her chapter on the complexities and nuances in a woman who had the means to become financially independent and rely only on herself, but chose to rely on men for “self-fulfillment” anyway; Rudnick does not reduce Dodge to her troublesome views, but rather explores them

“Sex, Gender, Marriage, and the New Woman.” Mabel Dodge 1905-1918: More Than a Muse. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://omeka.ursinus.edu/exhibits/show/mabel-dodge-morethanamuse>. This website, created by Graduate Fellows at Ursinus College, is geared toward both an academic and a public audience; the website attempts to make Mabel Dodge’s biography and relationships accessible. The page titled “Sex, Gender, Marriage, and the New Woman” consists of short essays focusing on Dodge’s status (or lack thereof) as a New Woman; her views on gender roles; her support of Loy’s “Feminist Manifesto;” her focus on the self, rather than all women, in her brand of feminism; and her love relationships. This website uses scholarly and biographical sources as well as primary source material, such as letters Mina Loy wrote to Dodge; though the essays explore this personal relationship, the style is informational and analytical, not personal. The page provides images of and links to Loy’s letters through the Beinecke Library, detailing their personal relationship as they discussed feminism in their letters. In offering a portrait of this relationship, the authors of this page explore the contradiction in Dodge’s support of Loy’s feminism: Dodge happily lived in the male-dominated world that Loy denounces in her “Feminist Manifesto.” The “Mabel Dodge Materials Collection” section of this website also provides transcriptions of the letters Loy wrote to Dodge.

Leave a Reply