chapter  6
14 Pages

‘Our War is with Words’: Dora Marsden and The Egoist

A magazine ‘read chiefly by cranks, feminist and other’: this is Hugh Kenner’s judgment of The Egoist in The Pound Era, one of the key texts in the critical mapping out of the literary history of modernism (Kenner, 1972, p. 279). Recent revisions of this orthodoxy by feminist critics have focused more closely on those creative ‘cranks’ whose position in literary history from 1880 to 1920 and after is seemingly marginal to the conventional stories of male modernist self-creation. Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, for example, have helped to introduce a major reconsideration of the issues of gender and modernism in their threevolume work, The Place of the Woman Writer in the Twentieth Century. For Gilbert and Gubar, modernism and the linguistic experiments characteristic of its avantgarde can be interpreted as products of a war or struggle between the sexes from the midnineteenth century onwards. It is this conflict, they argue, that underpins the creation of many of the most important works of modernism written by men: ‘a reactionformation against the rise of literary women became not just a theme in modern writing but a motive for modernism’ (Gilbert and Gubar, 1988, p. 156).