'Visible worlds' : the process of the image in the work of H.D.
This thesis examines the literary deployment of the visual in the work of
H. D. (Hilda Doolittle). Beginning with a discussion of the early poetry of Sca
Garden (1916) and the essay Notes on Thought and Vision (1919), 1 argue that
H. D. 's categorisation as an Imagist poet has effaced the political and aesthetic
possibilities opened up by her prose and later work. H. D. *s representation of
'womb vision' in Notes on Thought and Vision can be seen to anticipate the
notion of' the 'creating spectator' in the theoretical writings of the Soviet film
director. Sergei Eisenstein. Thus, by considering Sea Garden alongside
developments in early cinema, I re-evaluate the image in H. D. *s early work, and
locate her poetics not as 'static" but as kinetic.
H. D. was also directly involved in film-making and in the writing of film
criticism. Chapter Two explores how her engagement with the moving image is
inscribed into the autobiographical novel Her, written in 1917. Examining Her
alongside the silent film Borderline (1930), which H. D. helped to produce, this
chapter explores issues of sexual and racial difference which are foregrounded
through the formal devices employed in both texts. Chapter Three examines Tile
Gýfi, which was written during the Second World War, in the light of H. D. 's
contributions to the film journal Close Up (1927-33). This reading not only
illuminatcs the political and ideological implications of H. D. 's use of the visual,
it explores the intersections between literary and visual cultures at the beginning
of the twentieth century. Accounts of cinema are largely absent from the history
of literary Modernism and the thesis therefore goes some way towards a
revisionist analysis of the period.
Chapter Four extends the paradigm of the visual in H. D. 's work still
further, analysing her memoirs Tribute To Freud (1956) and the unpublished
Mqiic Ring (1943-44) in the light of her involvement with spiritualism. Both
these texts encode a critique of the scientific 'gaze' exemplified by
psychoanalysis and offer possibilities for an alternative model of 'seeing' which
is predicated upon spiritual, or visionary, experience. Returning to the discourse
of the cinema in Chapter Five, I contextualise my reading of Helen in EDIpt
(1961 ) within debates about synchronised sound in early cinema. I also explore
H. D. 's construction of female subjectivity and corporeality in Helen in the light
of recent feminist film theory.
In many ways H. D. 's work anticipates the preoccupations of recent
feminist thinkers such as Luce Irigaray, H616ne Cixous and Judith Butler. These
writers - along with recent feminist film theorists like Mary Ann Doane and Laura
Mulvey - provide a theoretical underpinning for the thesis. Such an approach
permits a questioning of H. D. 's perceived position as a 'Modernist' poet.
Furthermore, in the light of postmodern preoccupations with process, fluidity and
flux, it is possible to see how dominant configurations of gender and sexuality
are. through H. D. 's work, deliberately, and consistently, unsettled.