New Scholarship: Amy E. Elkins on H. D.’s Needlework

November 7, 2017

By Nancy Kuhl

Amy E. Elkins, A Stitch in Time: H.D.’s Craft Modernism as Transhistoric Repair in The Space Between: Literature and Culture 1914–1945, Volume 12, 2016.

ABSTRACT: H.D. (Hilda Doolittle, 1886-1961) maintained a longstanding interest in the material and artistic history of needlework, a practice that helped her conceptualize, theorize, and overcome traumatic wartime experiences. This essay presents, for the first time, an archive of H.D.’s needlework and demonstrates its relationship to her literary craft. With a new appreciation for the ways in which H.D. turned to needlework as a medium of psychological repair, I show how H.D.’s poetry and prose illustrate processes of survival and psychological coping through metaphors of needlework. Tracking alongside Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Cathy Caruth, I argue that to work through trauma requires innovative techniques, which for H.D. are embedded in craft practices and their ability to access figures of transhistoric significance. 

AMY E. ELKINS is an Assistant Professor of English at Macalester College. She specializes in 20th- and 21st-century British and Irish literature as it intersects with visual culture and art.  Her in-progress book project, “Crafting Modernity,” examines how modern and contemporary women writers deploy art-making as a form of critique that surpasses our usual frames of historical, gendered, and national reference.  She received her M.A. from the University of Virginia and her Ph.D. from Emory University and has published articles on Virginia Woolf, modernism, and visual culture.

Professor Elkins consulted the Viola Baxter Jordan Papers YCAL MSS 175; Viola Baxter Jordan Papers Image Guide.

Linen book H. D. used to store sewing needles (collection of the Schaffner family).

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.