Ryerson University

Body Sweats: The Uncensored Writings of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

16 JAN 2012

Written by Samantha Marenghi
 
Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven (1874-1927) was a German-born avant-garde, Dadaist artist and poet. Body Sweats: The Uncensored Writings of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven is the first major English collection of her work, and was edited by the Baroness' biographer Irene Gammel and poet and poetics scholar Suzanne Zelazo.
 
She is one of the almost-forgotten names of modernism, though well-known among the literati of the 1920's. She was part of the New York dada scene with Marcel Duchamp, and was close friends with Djuna Barnes. She appears briefly in Pound's Canto XCV, which laments that she went "mad". The blurb describes her aptly as "a neurasthenic, kleptomaniac, man-chasing proto-punk poet and artist". It goes on: She "not only dressed and behaved with purposeful outrageousness, but she set an example that went well beyond the eccentric divas of the twenty-first century, including her conceptual descendant, Lady Gaga." This collection fulfils the Baroness' desire to see her poetry published in a book, a project she began but did not achieve during her lifetime. Djuna Barnes, a close friend and editor, never got around to publishing her work posthumously.The book has a detailed scholarly introduction which contextualizes the poems and gives some background. Poems are organized by theme. The Baroness' poetry typically speeds vertically down the page, with a lot of line dashes to add emphasis and speed:
 
      I
      Taint
      Thy
      Teeth
      Into
      Slashing
      Me —
 
And the slower, beautiful:    
Night pitched      
Swift erethought —
Trail switched
Into nought —
 
 
She was a "witty and aggressively erotic writer", as this book demonstrates. Some of her neologisms (typically two words conjoined) are delightfully provocative: "Spinsterlollipop", "clinglust", and "satanslant". There is much more provocative language, including some slight anti-Semitism which the editors discuss, some blasphemous references to Christ and a farting God. Another figure that comes under fire is "Marcel Dushit", her ex-lover. Some are sound poems, demanding to be read aloud, while other performance poems are simply photos of the Baroness, in all her glory, in striking contortions and getup. The book is presented well, with big colour reprint of some of the Baroness' drafts with accompanying doodles. The book is a wonderful accomplishment, and a testament to the Baroness' eccentricity.

Read the review at London Student

Recent News

Lucy Wowk joins MLC

Lucy Wowk joins MLC

Lucy Wowk is a BA student in Creative Industries (2014-2018), specializing in print and curatorial practices, with a particular interest in ...

Avantgarde Artist Mina Loy

Avantgarde Artist Mina Loy

Mina Loy is a bold avant-garde poet and visual artist. Her work is being recognized with a 2017 National Endowment for the Humanities grant.

Jenna McClelland joins MLC

Jenna McClelland joins MLC

An MA student in Ryerson’s Literatures of Modernity Programme (2016-2017), Jenna McClelland specializes in the study of punk ...

Kailey Havelock joins MLC

Kailey Havelock joins MLC

A SSHRC-funded MA student in the Literatures of Modernity program at Ryerson University (2016-2017), Kailey Havelock holds an Honours BA in ...

The Great War in Literature and Visual Culture

MLC Themes

The Great War in Literature and Visual Culture

Amid the unprecedented social change of World War I, women renegotiated their identities by dramatically changing the way they engaged with the arts. But how did they do so? And how did everyday citizens engage with the war?

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

MLC Themes

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, considered by many to be the mother of Dada, was a daringly innovative poet and an early creator of junk sculpture. “The Baroness” was best known for her sexually charged, often controversial performances.

Modernism in the World

MLC Themes

Modernism in the World

Recent research has departed from the Euro-centric and national view of Modernism to include approaches and methods studying Modernism across national boundaries and across different art forms to include fashion, dance, performance, technology, and visual culture.

Lucy Maud Montgomery

MLC Themes

Lucy Maud Montgomery

L.M. Montgomery is perhaps Canada's most important literary export. She was prolific writer of over 500 short stories and poems, and twenty novels, including the beloved Anne of Green Gables.

Canadian Modernism

MLC Themes

Canadian Modernism

The works of numerous Canadian authors who lived during the modernist era may well constitute the most central and experimental articulation of Canadian modernism in prose, allowing authors to stage cross-cultural, controversial, and even conflicted identities.

Modernist Biography and Life Writing

MLC Themes

Modernist Biography and Life Writing

Life writing, including autobiographical accounts, diaries, letters and testimonials written or told by women and men whose political, literary or philosophical purposes are central to their lives, has become a standard tool for communication and the dissemination of information.