Venture

220px-Max_Eastman.jpg

Dublin Core

Title

Venture

Subject

Art, Modernism, and Bohemia

Description

Eastman’s “Parody” of Dodge Illuminates More Sneaky Sexism in “The Village”

Max Eastman’s novel Venture features a character clearly inspired by Mabel Dodge named Mary Kittredge. Dodge’s fictional representation by Eastman conveys her legendarily expansive impact on Greenwich Village culture and her formative role in the history of the America in the twentieth century. Despite illustrating Dodge’s impact, Eastman’s depiction was hyperbolic. Eastman’s character displays how the depiction of women’s work by their Bohemian male counterparts diminishes the value of women’s pursuits and finds amusement in their enterprises. Mary Kittredge’s enterprises are almost depicted as “cute” or just entertaining, showing the fundamental struggle of Bohemian women to be taken seriously. Dodge struggled with this throughout her life, especially in the male dominated artistic and political spheres of Greenwich Village 1913. Eastman’s novel is similar to Pete Whiffle by Carl Van Vetchen. Both novels are set in Greenwich Village and make fictional versions of reformers and artists. Eastman’s novel would be published in 1927, about five years after Van Vetchen’s publication in 1922. Both depictions convey Dodge’s crucial role in Bohemia while also inadvertently serving as examples of male Bohemia’s condescending and negative view of the work of female Bohemia.

Eastman’s attempt to immortalize Dodge certainly falls short and focuses more on Dodge’s “dramatic” qualities. Eastman characterizes Kittredge as “an extravagant person” (12). The character does the same work as Dodge in organizing and supporting the spirit of the new. Rudnick writes that, “In Venture (1927), Max Eastman fulfilled the male Village radicals’ romantic fantasies by creating a Mabel Dodge who sacrificed herself to the revolution’s leading man” (2180). Eastman’s choice to focus on the character’s extravagance rather than her works conveys how despite claiming to support gender equality, male Bohemia still demeaned women of Bohemia by seeing them more as “characters” than on an equal level. Eastman even attests that Kittredge was “almost as extravagant as the God who made her” (12). By putting the female character below the male Christian God Eastman is essentially taking credit away from the female’s works. This is extremely interesting considering how often Dodge refers to herself as “Fate” or “Destiny” in an attempt to subvert the tendency of 20th century American culture to attribute all work to the doings of a patriarchal God. In fact, Dodge even writes, “For I am God,” in her poem “The Mirror”. Therefore, Eastman’s depiction misrepresents the image Dodge assembled for herself and is an example of a male speaking for an influential female.

Eastman continues to poke fun at Dodge through his depiction of Kittredge; in particular, Eastman makes light of Dodge’s relationship struggles when he describes Kittredge’s relationships. Eastman writes, “Either she was getting married, or she was getting divorced, or she was testing out unmarried love” (12). Though accurate, Eastman’s tone paints Dodge’s struggles as frivolous rather than capturing the immensely complicated gender dynamics that Dodge had been trying to navigate. Eastman continues his description of Kittredge saying Kittredge was trying also always trying things like “snake-dancing, or Hindu philosophy, or Hindu turbans, or female farming, or opium-eating, or flute-playing” (12). Eastman depicts some of Dodge’s more obscure and exotic interests and therefore diminishes their importance. Though Kittredge is not of exotic origin, her depiction reflects the sentiment of Orientalism. Eastman paints these as little hobbies, but Dodge had been truly trying to reach new levels of thought and disseminate new perspectives. Dodge’s exploration of what might seem “weird” for her time was centered in her belief that individuals needed to constantly strive to understand what is outside of themselves. Eastman even calls gardening “female farming,” in order to diminish Dodge’s work and make a joke of women’s efforts to separate themselves from the control and oppression of male society.

Despite the clear sexist tone of Mary Kittredge’s depiction, Eastman’s character does at some points attest to Dodge’s role in Bohemia. In between lines of sexism, Eastman comments that, “There was nothing in the world that Mary could not want to do, and there was very little that she could not, in a surprisingly short space of time, do” (12). Though still carrying hints of the playful tone, Eastman is admitting that Dodge was the kind of person who made her own destiny. When Dodge made a plan, she followed through and carried out all aspects of it. Eastman also says, “She [Kittredge] was a public institution,” which more accurately would describe Mabel Dodge.

Eastman doesn’t seem to notice that he created two depictions of Dodge in his piece. On one hand he paints the picture of an extravagant and amusing character: a muse, a jester of sorts, a hostess. Yet there are hints of the true calculating and intelligent woman who Dodge was in his acknowledgement of Dodge’s ability to organize and the massive web of connections she was able to establish in such a short period of time.

Eastman, Max. Venture. New York: pg.12, 1927. Print.

Rudnick, Lois. Mabel Dodge Luhan: New Woman, New Worlds (Kindle Locations 2180-2181). University of New Mexico Press. Kindle Edition.

Creator

Max Eastman

Source

Intimate Memories

Publisher

Eastman

Date

1927

Format

Text

Language

English

Type

Novel

Text Item Type Metadata

Text

Mary Kittredge was an extravagant person. She was almost as extravagant as the God who made her, and he so loaded her with whims and vigor and talent and money and a thirst after the true meaning of life, that she acquired the renown and popularity of a circus. She was always just entering upon some new spiritual experiment that involved a complete break with everything that had gone before. Either she was getting married, or she was getting divorced, or she was testing out unmarried love, . . . or snake-dancing, or Hindu philosophy, or Hindu turbans, or female farming, or opium-eating, or flute-playing. There was nothing in the world that Mary could not want to do, and there was very little that she could not, in a surprisingly short space of time, do. She waged a perpetual war on habit, a war in which she had already routed and driven from the field three husbands, nine lovers, and a half a dozen religions, although she was only thirty-five years old. And as she possessed an enormous fortune, and by right of heredity a certain “position” in American society, her career and character were well-known. She was a public institution.

Eastman, Max. Venture. New York: pg.6, 1927. Print.

Original Format

Novel