Papers of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

UM's Papers of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

The University of Maryland's Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven Special Collection, located in the Literary Manuscripts Division at the University of Maryland, contains a short but comprehensive bibliography of the Baroness' life as well as a typed draft autobiography compiled by Djuna Barnes, in whose papers the collection was initially found. The autobiography was first started by the Baroness but never finished, although a new biography (Baroness Elsa: Gender, Dada, and Everyday Modernity – A Cultural Biography, by Irene Gammel) was recently published. These works both provide a rare insight into one of the most important figures of the New York Dada movement. The Baroness' childhood, love affairs, health problems, money worries, and innermost thoughts are described in detail, allowing readers a glimpse into her world.

Elsa von Freytag-Loringhaven's poetry, typical of the Dadaist movement, is sometimes chaotic, seemingly nonsensical, often sexually explicit, and thoroughly delightful to read. The collection contains handwritten drafts of some of her unpublished poems, most of which are not found elsewhere. She often used many titles and languages for the same text, and there may be several versions of each. To some extent, the texts demonstrate her thought processes as she rewrote the poems. The texts display corrected, added, and deleted text, sometimes as it runs up one side of the page and down the other, or is indicated in different colored inks. The collection overall presents a glimpse into the Baroness' world as one of this country's foremost Dadaists during the early 20th century.

The papers are available to researchers by appointment. Contact Beth Alvarez for more information.

Below: A close-up of one of the drawings the Baroness made on her poems, in this case "Thistledownflight."