Room 26 Cabinet of Curiosities

New from Beinecke’s Collections

Posted in Beinecke Library, Yale Collection of American Literature by beineckepoetry on November 10, 2012

From the Mabel Dodge Luhan Papers in the Yale Collection of American Literature (YCAL MSS 196  & YCAL MSS 197)

The Suppressed Memoirs of Mabel Dodge Luhan: Sex, Syphilis, and Psychoanalysis in the Making of Modern American Culture Edited by Lois Palken Rudnick. Univ. of New Mexico, ISBN 978-0-8263-5119-7

Reviewed in Publisher’s Weekly, July 27, 2012:  “In this illuminating volume, comprising previously unpublished portions of Mabel Dodge Luhan’s memoirs, Rudnick analyzes the influential art patron’s confessions and places them in an enlivening historical context. Writing in the early part of the 20th century, the openly bisexual Luhan describes a life of pleasure characterized by numerous sexual partners (married men among them), yet confounded by consequent venereal diseases and the feeling of being “the prisoner of circumstances over which [she] had no control.” Rudnick explains how the rampant spread of syphilis through the population affected not only Luhan, but many of her contemporaries, who struggled to reconcile Victorian notions of VDs (‘the sins of the fathers’) with a modernist worldview less bound to religious dogma, but still subject to the actualities of disease that accompanied the nascent sexual liberation, courtesy in part of Freud, of the early 1900s. In an attempt to overcome the burden of syphilis and the mixed-blessing of sexual freedom, Luhan became heavily involved in psychoanalytic treatment with some of America’s most renowned practitioners, which experience she dutifully recounts in detail. Populated by such artistic, cultural, and literary luminaries as Picasso, O’Keeffe, and Gertrude Stein, Luhan’s diaries are thoroughly engaging in their own right. But combined with Rudnick’s enlightening analysis, they become an indispensable looking glass into life during a tumultuous transitional period.”

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