“gray and affectionate”

As I shuttle back and forth between Vancouver and Toronto this summer, I’m also continuing my work with the unpublished correspondence of DADA artist Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven at the Modern Literature and Culture Research Centre, including letters to Djuna Barnes, Peggy Guggenheim, William Carlos Williams, and more. After a few months of working with the Baroness’ nearly one-hundred year-old letters, it’s bizarre how close I feel to her, though in an awfully voyeuristic way.

As part of my Graduate Research Assistantship, which was just extended to include the summer, I’m also mentoring an Undergraduate Research Assistant in the art of working with archival documents. It’s very exciting, and thankfully, flexible, since I am preparing for my big move to Vancouver, while also writing my Major Research Project on the performative structure of the Baroness’ epistolary rhetoric to complete my Master’s. The Baroness, in many of the letters I am working with, often explores her childhood memories, and asks for assistance in fleeing Berlin after leaving New York and falling into a state of poverty. I find her plight particularly moving, since it’s speckled with images of her past, descriptions of her performances (like entering the German consulate with a birthday cake on her head!), and deep suicidal laments, including those written from her time at the Landesirrenanstalt in Eberswalde during the Spring of 1925. These archival documents move me so strongly, far more strongly than a transcription would, since her original erratic English and German handwriting just oozes aura. It has often made me muse about the nature of the un-standardized written word, as opposed to the printed, or digital word. There is something so magical about one-hundred year-old scribbles, written hastily and passionately, from the pen of someone so elusive and mysterious as the Baroness. I love my job.

  Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven | Wheels are Growing on Rose Bushes | 1921-22 |  Ink on paper, 5 3/4 x 8 3/4 inches

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven | Wheels are Growing on Rose Bushes | 1921-22 | Ink on paper, 5 3/4 x 8 3/4 inches

One Comment

  1. Mike wrote:

    I love your job, too.