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This article is taken from PN Review 135, Volume 27 Number 1, September - October 2000.

What's in a Name? or, Mina/Myrna/Muna Carolyn Burke

Since the joint publication in 1996 of The Lost Lunar Baedeker and my Becoming Modern, The Life of Mina Loy, interest in Loy has grown in literary and academic circles, the art world, and among 'third-wave' feminists. Her poetry is taught in university courses; a number of PhD theses are in the works; the Institute of English Studies' recent Mina Loy symposium was lively and well attended.

Judging by the number of Loy sites on the web (some twenty-five the last time I checked), this unexpected resurgence - part of the current rethinking of Modernism - is also reaching general readers. This has not always been the case. During the years I spent researching and writing her biography, my book's unofficial title was Not Myrna. This nickname was chosen only half in jest. Then, except for a few poets and scholars, nearly everyone confused my subject with her movie star namesake.

It was intriguing to learn that her chosen name had led a life of its own. In the 1910s and 1920s her reputation as a writer of 'vers libertine' had prompted waggish rhymes on her nom de plume. Decades later, however, a publisher who did not know the name asked whether she was a major minor figure or a minor major one. Loy once remarked that her friend Gertrude Stein was a genius who was born to be misunderstood. The quip applies as well to her own literary standing, the fluctuations of which can ...


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