Asphodel

Overview


"DESTROY," H.D. had pencilled across the title page of this autobiographical novel. Although the manuscript survived, it has remained unpublished since its completion in the 1920s. Regarded by many as one of the major poets of the modernist period, H.D. created in Asphodel a remarkable and readable experimental prose text, which in its manipulation of technique and voice can stand with the works of Joyce, Woolf, and Stein; in its frank exploration of lesbian desire, pregnancy and motherhood, artistic ...
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Asphodel

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Overview


"DESTROY," H.D. had pencilled across the title page of this autobiographical novel. Although the manuscript survived, it has remained unpublished since its completion in the 1920s. Regarded by many as one of the major poets of the modernist period, H.D. created in Asphodel a remarkable and readable experimental prose text, which in its manipulation of technique and voice can stand with the works of Joyce, Woolf, and Stein; in its frank exploration of lesbian desire, pregnancy and motherhood, artistic independence for women, and female experience during wartime, H.D.'s novel stands alone.
A sequel to the author's HERmione, Asphodel takes the reader into the bohemian drawing rooms of pre-World War I London and Paris, a milieu populated by such thinly disguised versions of Ezra Pound, Richard Aldington, May Sinclair, Brigit Patmore, and Margaret Cravens; on the other side of what H.D. calls "the chasm," the novel documents the war's devastating effect on the men and women who considered themselves guardians of beauty. Against this riven backdrop, Asphodel plays out the story of Hermione Gart, a young American newly arrived in Europe and testing for the first time the limits of her sexual and artistic identities. Following Hermione through the frustrations of a literary world dominated by men, the failures of an attempted lesbian relationship and a marriage riddled with infidelity, the birth of an illegitimate child, and, finally, happiness with a female companion, Asphodel describes with moving lyricism and striking candor the emergence of a young and gifted woman from her self-exile.
Editor Robert Spoo's introduction carefully places Asphodel in the context of H.D.'s life and work. In an appendix featuring capsule biographies of the real figures behind the novel's fictional characters, Spoo provides keys to this roman à clef.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Asphodel is a brilliant experimentalist text important to the history and theory of both modernism and women's writing."—Susan Stanford Friedman, author of Penelope's Web: H.D's Fictions and the Engendering of Modernism

"This novel . . . is a considerable lyric meditation on femaleness, sexual and maternal choices, and the meanings of war, history, and violence. Its publication adds a striking text to the modernist canon."—Rachel Blau DuPlessis, author of H.D.: The Career of that Struggle

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
If we can ignore the fact that its author dashed the word ``Destroy'' across the sole manuscript of this work, the first publication of Asphodel should be greeted as a boon for scholars and readers alike. pk The novel is like a time capsule. Its style is the high modernism of Woolf, Pound and Joyce, and its content is the autobiographical story of Hermione Gart begun in the poet H.D.'s novel HERmionesic . The first part concerns Hermione's life in Paris and London before WW I and details her relationships with George Lowdnes (a character evidently inspired by Ezra Pound), Fayne Rabb, and Jerrold Darrington, whom she eventually marries. Marriage is the dominant theme, as if, beneath the flowing modernist surface, there lurks a traditional novel of manners. But with a difference: we see Fayne and Hermione subtly drawn into orthodox alliances and roles, which spell the end of their lesbian affair. Part II has a sharper edge, since it concerns WW I and the end of a civilization. Hermione's marriage also fails and she is left to find other loves, conventional and unconventional. Despite occasional turgid passages, this is a poet's prose, unashamedly lyrical--and now, 70 years hidden, suddenly fresh and experimental. (Oct.)
Booknews
Editor Robert Spoo supplements Doolittle's unpublished autobiographical novel (written in the 1920s) about lesbian and heterosexual love, with introductory material and an appendix featuring capsule biographies of the real figures behind the novel's fictional characters. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822312420
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 8/28/1992
  • Pages: 215
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1886. In 1911 she went to Europe where, with Ezra Pound and Richard Aldington, she became a leading member of the Imagist movement. She published many volumes of poetry, from Sea Garden in 1916 to Helen in Egypt in 1961, the year of her death. Her novels include Bid Me to Live (A Madrigal) and HERmione.

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