University of Maryland Libraries Digital Collections

In Transition: Selected Poems
by the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven


Welcome to In Transition: Selected Poems by the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, an electronic edition of poetry by the Dadaist artist, performer, and poet Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. Work on this digital edition began as part of the dissertation entitled "The Makings of Digital Modernism" by Tanya Clement. A portion of the dissertation is included here as the essay "Knowledge Representation and the Networked Text in In Transition." This scholarly edition comprises digital surrogates and transcriptions of multiple manuscript versions of twelve poems by Freytag-Loringhoven. The manuscripts are housed in the Papers of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, which are among the holdings in Special Collections of the University of Maryland (UM), College Park, Libraries. Tanya Clement created the digital surrogates of the manuscripts and transcribed and encoded them in TEI P5 XML. In addition, Clement augmented this instantiation with the free, open-source Javascript application called the Versioning Machine (v.4.0), which underlies the interface and allows for the cross-comparisons between these digital surrogates. More information about the nature of the augmentation can be found in the About the project pages.

Described by The Little Review editor Margaret Anderson as "perhaps the only figure of our generation who deserves the epithet extraordinary," (Anderson, My Thirty Years War 177) the poet Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven published, between 1918 and 1929, approximately forty of her poems in little magazines such as Broom, Liberator, The Little Review, transatlantic review, transition, and the single issue of New York Dada. Born Else Hildegard Ploetz on July 12, 1874, in Swinemunde on the Baltic Sea, she ran away to Berlin in 1892, where she became involved in the Bohemian theatre circles. In 1910, she came to the United States to join Felix Paul Greve, then known as Frederick Phillip Grove, whom she had married in 1907. Subsequently abandoned by Grove, by 1913 she had moved to New York City, where she met and married the penniless Baron Leo von Freytag-Loringhoven. It was in New York, after the Baron had returned to Germany during the war and subsequently committed suicide, that Freytag-Loringhoven became entrenched in the Greenwich Village artist movement and began her brief and successful writing career as "the Baroness."

Freytag-Loringhoven created these twelve texts during a time of transition in her life, between 1923 and 1927, when she moved from New York to Berlin and finally to Paris. In Transition sheds light on a moment of transition in the culture of little magazines — it illuminates the changing technologies of conversation during the 1920s as well as those of the first decade of the twenty-first century. Three primary relationships connect these texts:

  1. Reception History: During the period between 1927 and 1929, three of the twelve poems included in the edition ("Café Du Dome," "Xray," and "Ostentatious") were published in transition. Five additional poems—"Ancestry," "Christ — Don Quixote — St. George" (a subsection of "Contradictory Speculations"), "Cosmic Arithmetic," "Sermon On Life's Beggar Truth," and "A Dozen Cocktails Please"— were under consideration for publicationby the transition editors for future issues, although ultimately rejected.
  2. Material Space: In some cases, draft versions of certain poems appear on the verso or in the margins of the manuscripts for draft versions of other poems. For instance, different drafts of "Café du Dome," "Ancestry" and "Sermon" appear on drafts of "Ostentatious" and "Orchard Farming," "Sermon," "Christ — Don Quixote — St. George"; in addition, a draft of "Ostentatious," appears on a version of "Xray."
  3. Themes: There are many thematic ties among the poems. The remaining three poems ("Purgatory Lilt/Statements by Circumstanced Me," "Orgasmic Toast," "Matter Level Perspective") share similar scientific themes, while images of "radiance" appear in "Orgasmic Toast," "Sermon on Life's Beggar Truth," "Purgatory Lilt," and "Xray" and mathematic formulas in "Orgasmic toast," "Purgatory Lilt," and "Cosmic Arithmetic."

These twelve poems all participate in the performance of Freytag-Loringhoven's poetry by and through multiple and varied relationships within the textual network as a whole. For more on this topic, please see the accompanying essay "Knowledge Representation and the Networked Text in In Transition").

This digital edition was developed in collaboration with the staff of UM Libraries' Special Collections and the Office of Digital Collections and Research (DCR), and with staff of the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH). For specific credits, please see Acknowledgments.