ABSTRACT

Mina Loy's essay “Modern Poetry” (1925) is a minor modernist classic, often cited and regularly studied. The New Jersey fashion and home-interest magazine in which it first appeared, Charm, and the editor who likely commissioned it, Bessie Breuer, are all but forgotten. In this article, which introduces Charm and Breuer in the context of modernist studies for the first time, the standard interpretation of Loy's essay as a manifesto for a poetry of the new is reconceptualized. Through the lens of Charm's fashion coverage, with its emphasis on both the seductively new and the practically durable, I read Loy's version of novelty as always relative and fleeting. Reading modernism through fashion, and particularly in a magazine, the article argues, simultaneously emphasizes and undermines modernism's definitions. In the final part of the article, I use Charm's fashion coverage as a way to approach modernist historiography. This historiography heralds not the canonical but— briefly, at least—the one-time and obscure artifacts of modernism. Fashion lets me recover Breuer and Charm for modernist history without attempting to assert anything as fixed as their absolute value. Fashion helps me propose a quintessentially modernist historiography that is attuned to restless change and contingency.

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