NEW SCHOLARSHIP: Amanda Mehsima Licato on Toomer and O’Keeffe

May 16, 2018

By Nancy Kuhl

Amanda Mehsima Licato, “The Shared Journeys of Jean Toomer and Georgia O’Keeffe,” in The Census,Yale Program in the History of the Book

FROM “The Shared Journeys of Jean Toomer and Georgia O’Keeffe”: “Jean Toomer and Georgia O’Keeffe were two great searchers of American modernism, discovering each other as well as new forms for the subjects of their art in the early-to-mid twentieth century. A yet untold juncture of this relationship, surprisingly obscure even among Toomer and O’Keeffe enthusiasts and scholars—an intimate tryst beginning in the winter of 1933—has remained buried in correspondence currently housed in the Jean Toomer Papers at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. These letters reveal Toomer and O’Keeffe’s short-lived romance, which came after almost a decade of friendship. They also allow us to more fully grasp the parallel paths Toomer and O’Keeffe followed as artistic figures who felt misunderstood by the art world, and who fought to remove themselves from their prescribed artistic labels—Toomer as an African American artist who embodied the black principle and O’Keeffe as a female artist who embodied the feminine principle. Through these letters, we witness Toomer and O’Keeffe’s nurturing of an intimacy that reassured them both of their artistic and personal value.” Read more about “The Shared Journeys of Jean Toomer and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Amanda Mehsima Licato is a Ph.D. Candidate in English studying nineteenth-and early-twentieth-century American literature in the Department of English at Stanford University, with a focus on African American literature, print culture, and poetry and poetics. Her dissertation, “Out from Behind this Mask”: Persona in African American Poetry, 1830-1930, leverages a formal attention to masking in the poetic tradition to analyze African American lyric and its historical contexts from the slave era and Jim Crow era.

Call Number: JWJ MSS 1 (Series 1, Correspondence: Box 6, Folder 204)


The Beinecke Library encourages scholars, students, and the public to engage the past in the present for the future. In the service of new scholarship, the library offers generous fellowships for visiting scholars and for graduate students to support research in a wide range of fields. Learn more about fellowship opportunities.