| The Heath Anthology of
American Literature, Fifth Edition
H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)
H.D.’s life and work recapitulate the central themes
of literary modernism: the emergence from Victorian norms and certainties; the
entry into an age characterized by rapid technological change and the violence
of two world wars; the disruptions of conventional gender roles with the rise
of feminism; and the development of literary modes which reflected the
disintegration of traditional symbolic systems and the mythmaking quest for new
meanings. Writing under the nom de plume H.D., she is known mainly as a poet,
especially for her imagist poetry (as in Sea Garden) and her epics of the
forties and fifties (Trilogy and Helen in Egypt). She was the first woman to
receive the prestigious Award of Merit Medal for Poetry from the American
Academy of Arts and Letters (1960). H.D. has also been highly praised for her
Greek translations. Often compared to Virginia Woolf and Gertrude Stein, H.D.
is increasingly recognized for her experimental fiction (HERmione, Bid Me to
Live and Asphodel) and her personal essays (Tribute to Freud).
the modernist poetry of her friends, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, and William
Carlos Williams, H.D.’s early poetry originated in the avant-garde, vers libre
movements of 1910–1920 (especially imagism), influenced by Sappho, Japanese
haiku, Troubadour lyrics, Bergsonian philosophy, and post-impressionist art.
H.D. was known as the “most perfect” of the imagist poets for her innovative
musical rhythms, crystalline lines, and stark images. Like The Cantos, The
Waste Land, and Paterson, H.D.’s later long sequence poems featured the poet as
prophet wandering in the wilderness of the modern world, drawing on the
fragments of many cultures to forge new myths that might give meaning to a
world shattered by war, technology, and alienation. Like the modernist novels
of Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, and William Faulkner that she admired, H.D.’s
fiction fractured narrative perspective and chronology in order to capture the
shifting subjectivities of consciousness. This prose centers on the experience
of the creative woman who wants both love and vocation in a world perpetually
split open by violence.
distinctive emphasis as a modernist grew out of her extensive involvement with
classical Greece and ancient Egypt, cinema, psychoanalysis, esoteric religion,
and occult mysticism. Her perspective as a woman further permeated her
revisions of these traditions. Analyzed by Sigmund Freud (1933, 1934), for
example, she transformed his androcentric theories of femininity into the basis
of a redemptive female voice and vision. Like Woolf, H.D. was profoundly
concerned with the issues of war and violence. To counter the forces of death,
her work reconstitutes gender, language, and myth to serve her search for a
vision of personal and cultural rebirth.
the forests and sea-coasts of the United States, H.D. grew up in Pennsylvania:
first Bethlehem and then a Philadelphia suburb. Her mother was a Moravian
artist and musician, and her father was a well-known professor of astronomy.
Withdrawing from Bryn Mawr College in her sophomore year with poor grades, she
later went to Europe in 1911 to join the circle of artists around Pound, Yeats,
and Joyce. Although she remained intensely American throughout her residences
in London and Switzerland, she only visited the United States four times.
Bisexually oriented, H.D. almost married Ezra Pound, married fellow imagist
Richard Aldington in 1913, separated from him in 1919, divorced him in 1938,
and lived with Bryher (Winifred Ellerman) from 1919 through 1946.
Susan Stanford Friedman|
University of Wisconsin at Madison
In the Heath Anthology
from The Walls Do Not Fall 
from Tribute to the Angels [8,12,19,20,23,43]
By Avon River
Tribute to Freud
Bid Me to Live (A Madrigal)
Helen in Egypt
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American Women Writers 1890 to 1939: Modernism and Mythology
Site provided by Kristin Mapel-Bloomberg, addresses H.D.'s place in the Modern moment.
Modern American Poetry
Criticism, poems for reading online, a biography, and links.
The H.D. Homepage
Biography, newsletter, resources, and poetry online.
Harold Bloom, ed., Modern Critical Views: H.D., 1989
Dianne Chisolm, H.D.'s Freudian Poetics: Psychoanalysis in Transition, 1992
Rachel Blau DuPlessis, H.D.: The Career of That Struggle, 1986
Susan Edmonds, Out of Line: History, Psychoanalysis, and Montage in H.D.'s Long Poems, 1994
Susan S. Friedman, Psyche Reborn: The Emergence of H.D., 1981
Susan S. Friedman, Penelope's Web: Gender, Modernity, H.D.'s Fiction, 1990
Susan S. Friedman and Rachel Blau DuPlessis, eds., Signets: Reading H.D., 1990
Barbara Guest, Herself Defined: The Poet H.D. and Her World, 1984
Donna Krolik Hollenberg, H.D.: The Poetics of Childbirth and Creativity, 1991
Cassandra Laity, H.D. and the Victorian Fin de Siecle: Gender, Modernism, Decadence, 1996