Nancy Cunard

BookNancy Cunard

Nancy Cunard

Perfect Stranger

Clemson University Press


November 10th, 2020



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Nancy Cunard: Perfect Stranger reshapes our understanding of a woman, whose role in key historical, political, and cultural moments of the 20th century was either dismissed and attacked, or undervalued. Here, Jane Marcus, who was one of the most insightful critics of modernism and a pioneering feminist scholar, is unafraid and unapologetic in addressing and contesting Nancy Cunard’s reputation and reception as a spoiled heiress and “sexually dangerous New Woman.” Instead, with her characteristic provocative and energetic writing style, Marcus insists we reconsider issues of gender, race, and class in relation to the accusations, stereotypes, and scandal, which have dominated, and continue to dominate, our perception of Cunard in the public record. In the wake of inadequate histories of radical writing and activism, Nancy Cunard: Perfect Stranger brings its subject into the 21st century, offering a bold and innovative portrait of a woman we all thought we knew.  

'[The book] provides new readings of [Cunard's] work and her role in transatlantic modernism. [...] Marcus takes new comparative approaches for understanding Cunard's contribution [and] interest in her work continues to grow. Marcus’ passionate defence of Cunard will further energize these discussions.'
Mercedes Aguirre, Times Literary Supplement

'The book is a tour de force in its scope and forensic detail. Marcus exhaustively mined all available archives—letters, diaries, photographs, scrapbooks, and typescript drafts—as well as personal testimonies, conferences, and seminars held in several countries and continents over several decades. Following her death in 2015, Jean Mills brought Marcus’s drafts to completion with the confidence of her close collaborations with the author over many years. Mills offers an insightful introduction, afterword, and advocacy for the endnotes as both complementary and self-standing rich resources.'
Jane Dowson, Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature

'Marcus died before her Cunard study was polished for publication – a task completed by her former student and now established literary scholar, Jean Mills. Mills uncovered notes, computer files, scribbles, and hints left by Marcus to assemble this unusual presentation of Nancy Cunard’s stunning bohemian creativity. [...] This is not a biography of Cunard. Editor Jean Mills points to works by Anne Chisholm and Hugh Ford for a chronological presentation of Cunard’s life. Instead, Marcus’ contribution clarifies the significance of Cunard’s seemingly chaotic life and work to both modernism and Black culture.'Sandi E. Cooper, The Coordinating Council for Women in History

Author Information

Jane Marcus, one of the most insightful critics of modernism, was a Distinguished Professor of English at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York. A pioneering feminist literary scholar, she specialized in women writers of the modernist era, changing the way we read the work of Virginia Woolf, Rebecca West, and Nancy Cunard, among others, by focusing on the social and political context and implications of their writing. She published extensively in her field, including such foundational titles as Virginia Woolf and the Languages of Patriarchy (1987); Art and Anger: Reading Like a Woman (1988); and Hearts of Darkness: White Women Write Race (2004). As an educator, her seminars on literary modernism, “the other” World War I, the Spanish Civil War, and Virginia Woolf for the 21st Century, were highly regarded and generative, as she inspired succeeding generations of young scholars and activists to mine the archives in order to adjust and correct the public record. Jean Mills is a feminist scholar and literary critic specializing in Peace Studies, Virginia Woolf, intellectual history, feminist theory, and literary modernism. She is the author of Virginia Woolf, Jane Ellen Harrison, and the Spirit of Modernist Classicism (2014), as well as essays on Gertrude Stein, Hope Mirrlees, Jane Ellen Harrison, and Virginia Woolf, and the intersections of gender, race, and class. She is an Associate Editor of the journal Feminist Modernist Studies, dividing her time between New York City and Accord, New York. She is currently at work on a collection of essays Literary Approaches to Peace and a full length study 1924: A Year in the Life of Virginia Woolf.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
A Note about the Cover17
Editor’s Introduction: Scholarship’s Afterlife: The Return of Rage19
Introduction to the Original Text29
I Outlaws: The Making of the Woman Poet as Perfect Stranger39
1 The Cunard Line: A Poet’s Progress, 192541
2 The Artist as Antichrist: Thamar, the Demon Lover67
3 Between Men: Eliot, Pound, and Fresca93
II Poetry, War, and Primitivism: Making Modern Life119
4 The Rites of Spring121
5 Girlfriends, Boyfriends, and Bright Young Things139
III Grands Hommes: Fabricating a Father165
6 Closet Autobiography: Bones and Stones167
7 White Nympholepsy: George Moore, Manet, and the Modern191
8 Intellectual Nomads: Norman Douglas, the Desert, and the Taste for Space221
IV Translating Africa: The Negro Anthology233
9 White Women, Black Books: The Negro Anthology and Sylvia Leith-Ross’s African Women235
V Reporting War: The Journalism269
10 Nanción’s Cancións: Nancy Cunard and the Spanish Civil War271
11 Race on the Wire: Nancy Cunard’s War Stories281
End Notes: An Afterword295