Annotated Bib: “Modernist Women’s Memoir, War and Recovering the Ordinary: H.D.’S “The Gift””

Photograph of H.D., c. 1921. Beinecke Rare Boo...
Photograph of H.D., c. 1921. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week’s Annotated Bibliography entry analyzes an article by Lorraine Sim who explores a World War II memoir written by H.D. You may view the full text here.

Annotated Bib Entry

Sim, Lorraine. “Modernist Women’s Memoir, War and Recovering the Ordinary: H.D.’S The Gift.” Women’s Studies 38.1 (2009): 63-83. SocINDEX with Full Text. Web. 20 Feb. 2015.

In this article, Lorraine Sim discusses the theme of “the ordinary in H.D.’s wartime memoir The Gift” (63). Sim also discusses modernist theories that uphold war as a part of ordinary life. H.D. wrote this memoir during and soon after World War II. She chose to stay in London during the war despite the dangers from the frequent air-raids that occurred during that period. Throughout the text, H.D. discusses how grounding herself in the everyday helped to keep her attached to reality in the midst of the bombings even as the air raids themselves became a part of her “normal,” everyday life.

According to Sim, H.D. challenges the notion that the women left at home while their men went off to war were relatively untouched by the war. Sim also analyzes the post-Second-World-War “theories of the ordinary” by critics such as Lefebvre, Michel de Certeau, and Michel Foucault, who tend “to view everyday life through the “logic of war” (65). These modernist theorists often present conflict as an intrinsic part of life. Sim also compares H.D.’s memoir to other texts of the same time that were written by male authors who often focused on how experiencing war made their ordinary pre-war lives seem alien in comparison to what they had become accustomed to while living at the front.


“The Gift reveals H.D.’s sense of the close relationship between, on the one hand, the material, the domestic everyday and history, and, on the other hand, the spiritual and myth. One striking example of this is the chapter entitled “Notes” at the end of The Gift which provides extensive, historical details about H.D.’s Moravian religious heritage to complement the more cryptic references to that tradition elsewhere in the memoir. This interweaving of the particular, personal and factual with the spiritual, impersonal and mythic is a further way in which the text argues for the importance of the ordinary” (77).


I don’t really have much to say about this one. It wasn’t an easy or enjoyable read, and the author uses the word, “quotidian” way too much. Vary your word choices, people! If you have anything to add about this article or my analysis of it, please feel free to leave a comment below.

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