Cover image for Making love modern : the intimate public worlds of New York's literary women


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS255.N5 M55 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In the teens and twenties, New York was home to a rich variety of literary subcultures. Within these intermingled worlds, gender lines and other boundaries were crossed in ways hardly imaginable in previous decades. Among the bohemians of Greenwich Village, the sophisticates of the Algonquin Round Table and the literati of the Harlem Renaissance, certain women found fresh, powerful voices through which to speak and write. Edna St. Vincent Millay and Dorothy Parker are now best remembered for their colorful lives; Genevieve Taggard, Gwendolyn Bennett and Helene Johnson are hardly remembered at all. Yet each made a serious literary contribution to the meaning of modern femininity, relationship, and selfhood. Making Love Modern uncovers the deep historical sensitivity and interest of these women's love poetry. Placing their work in the context of subcultures nested within national culture, Nina Miller explores the tensions that make this literature so rewarding for contemporary readers. A poetry of intimate expression, it also functioned powerfully as public assertion. The writers themselves were high-profile embodiments of femininity, the local representatives of New Womanhood within their male-centered subcultural worlds. Making Love Modern captures the literary lives of these women as well as the complex subcultures they inhabited---Harlem, the Village, and glamorous Midtown. In the end, the book is a much a study of modernist New York as of women's love poetry during modernism.

Author Notes

Nina Miller, Associate Professor of English, teaches American literature, African American literature, and Women's Studies at Iowa State University. She is currently at work on a book about the lost history of Anarchism in US education.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

In this feminist study, Miller explores the lives and love poetry of modernist women writers in the literary subcultures of New York in the late 1910s and 1920s. The study is grounded in an analysis of cultural dynamics, subcultures, and women's literary strategies and practices. Miller begins with an examination of bohemia and Free Love in Greenwich Village as background and context for a literary examination of Edna St. Vincent Millay and Genevieve Taggard. This is followed by an exploration of the sophistication and publicity surrounding the Algonquin Round Table, which provides context for a study of Dorothy Parker. The last three chapters focus on the Harlem Renaissance, the role of journals, the arts and artists, black womanhood, and Gwendolyn Bennett and Helene Johnson. Miller (English, Iowa State Univ.) contributes a scholarly work unique in the study of modernist New York, women's love poetry, and the role of women in modernism.ÄJeris Cassel, Rutgers Univ. Libs., New Brunswick, NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Miller's misleadingly subtitled volume is a remarkable achievement in cultural analysis of one of this outgoing century's most fascinating decades--the 1920s. Vindicating an assertion that "the aura surrounding the 1920s shows no sign of diminishing," the author manages to bring the period to vibrant life, despite her ponderous, sometimes pretentious, academic jargon. Although she focuses on the female gender issue--within a sociological pattern of self-vindication, adversarial relations, and "literary strategy"--the author also deals extensively with males, both literary and in show business. Among the book's highlights: the section on the Algonquin Round Table (with its prominent odd couple, Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley), a discussion of the bohemian experience of Edna St. Vincent Millay (and her value system of free love and art), material on the Jewish immigrant influence, and the extensive examination of the Harlem Renaissance and its shaping of the concept of "negro womanhood." This study complements the more male-oriented study by the late Gorham Munson, The Awakening Twenties: A Memoir-History of a Literary Period (CH, Nov'85). Highly recommended for academic collections supporting work at the upper-level undergraduate level and above and for general and professional collections. S. I. Bellman; California State Polytechnic University, Pomona