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The Degenerate MuseAmerican Nature, Modernist Poetry, and the Problem of Cultural Hygiene$
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Robin G. Schulze

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199920327

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199920327.001.0001

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. Harriet Monroe’s Pioneer Modernism

. Harriet Monroe’s Pioneer Modernism

(p.68) 2. Harriet Monroe’s Pioneer Modernism
The Degenerate Muse

Robin G. Schulze

Oxford University Press

Harriet Monroe’s role as one of the principal editors and promoters of literary modernism in Poetry, A Magazine of Verse was profoundly influenced by her experience of the American West. Sick with pneumonia, Monroe travelled from Chicago to Arizona in 1899 to recuperate. The West made her well and she became a firm believer in the eugenic properties of American nature. Monroe’s early nature essays display her desire to read American nature through the tropes of British Romanticism as a divinely infused space. As she became more familiar with the region, however, she became more intrigued by the notion of how the American imagination might prove itself more fit than the European imagination by mastering nature rather than bowing before it. Echoing Theodore Roosevelt and Frederick Jackson Turner, Monroe urged American poets to test themselves against the subject of American nature as a means of staving off racial decay. She concluded that the poet must be like a pioneer and conquer nature by creating something big, powerful, and new out of the waste. Monroe’s belief that American nature was key to avoiding European degeneracy influenced her editing of Poetry and her relationship with her foreign correspondent, Ezra Pound.

Keywords:   Harriet Monroe, poetry, A Magazine of Verse, poetry, american, modernism, degeneration, nature, race, decay

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