In much the same way that photography forced painting to move in new directions, the advent of the World Wide Web, with its proliferation of easily transferable and manipulated text, forces us to think about writing, creativity, and the materiality of language in new ways. In Against Expression, editors Craig Dworkin and Kenneth Goldsmith present the most innovative works responding to the challenges posed by these developments.
Charles Bernstein has described conceptual poetry as "poetry pregnant with thought." Against Expression, the premier anthology of conceptual writing, presents work that is by turns thoughtful, funny, provocative, and disturbing. Dworkin and Goldsmith, two of the leading spokespersons and practitioners of conceptual writing, chart the trajectory of the conceptual aesthetic from early precursors including Samuel Beckett and Marcel Duchamp to the most prominent of today’s writers. Nearly all of the major avant-garde groups of the past century are represented here, including Dada, OuLiPo, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, and Flarf to name just a few, but all the writers are united in their imaginative appropriation of found and generated texts and their exploration of nonexpressive language. Against Expression is a timely collection and an invaluable resource for readers and writers alike.
In this challenging work, Ronald E. Martin analyzes the impulse of major nineteenth- and twentieth-century American writers to undermine not only their inherited paradigms of literary and linguistic thought but to question how paradigms themselves are constructed. Through analyses of these writers, as well as contemporaneous scientists, mathematicians, philosophers, and visual artists, American Literature and the Destruction of Knowledge creates a panoramic view of American literature over the past 150 years and shows it to be a crucial part of the great philosophical changes of the period. The works of Melville, Emerson, Whitman, and Dickinson, followed by Crane, Frost, Pound, Stein, Hemingway, Dos Passos, Aiken, Stevens, and Williams, are examined as part of a cultural current that casts doubt on the possibility of knowledge itself. The destruction of concepts, of literary and linguistic forms, was for these writers a precondition for liberating the imagination to gain more access to the self and the real world. As part of the exploration of this cultural context, literary and philosophical realisms are examined together, allowing a comparison of their somewhat different objectives, as well as their common epistemological predicament.
Anti-Literature articulates a rethinking of what is meant today by “literature.” Examining key Latin American forms of experimental writing from the 1920s to the present, Adam Joseph Shellhorse reveals literature’s power as a site for radical reflection and reaction to contemporary political and cultural conditions. His analysis engages the work of writers such as Clarice Lispector, Oswald de Andrade, the Brazilian concrete poets, Osman Lins, and David Viñas, to develop a theory of anti-literature that posits the feminine, multimedial, and subaltern as central to the undoing of what is meant by “literature.”
By placing Brazilian and Argentine anti-literature at the crux of a new way of thinking about the field, Shellhorse challenges prevailing discussions about the historical projection and critical force of Latin American literature. Examining a diverse array of texts and media that include the visual arts, concrete poetry, film scripts, pop culture, neo-baroque narrative, and others that defy genre, Shellhorse delineates the subversive potential of anti-literary modes of writing while also engaging current debates in Latin American studies on subalternity, feminine writing, posthegemony, concretism, affect, marranismo, and the politics of aesthetics.
The Asian American Avant-Garde is the first book-length study thatconceptualizes a long-neglected canon of early Asian American literature and art. Audrey Wu Clark traces a genealogy of counter-universalism in short fiction, poetry, novels, and art produced by writers and artists of Asian descent who were responding to their contemporary period of Asian exclusion in the United States, between the years 1882 and 1945.
Believing in the promise of an inclusive America, these avant-gardists critiqued racism as well as institutionalized art. Clark examines racial outsiders including Isamu Noguchi, Dong Kingman and Yun Gee to show how they engaged with modernist ideas, particularly cubism. She draws comparisons between writers such as Sui Sin Far and Carlos Bulosan with modernist luminaries like Stein, Eliot, Pound, and Proust.
Acknowledging the anachronism of the term “Asian American” with respect to these avant-gardists, Clark attempts to reconstruct it. The Asian American Avant-Garde explores the ways in which these artists and writers responded to their racialization and the Orientalism that took place in modernist writing.
The Avant-Garde and Geopolitics in Latin America examines the canonical Latin American avant-garde texts of the 1920s and 1930s in novels, travel writing, journalism, and poetry, and presents them in a new light as formulators of modern Western culture and precursors of global culture. Particular focus is placed on the work of Roberto Arlt and Mário de Andrade as exemplars of the movement.
Fernando J. Rosenberg provides a theoretical historiography of Latin American literature and the role that modernity and avant-gardism played in it. He finds significant parallels between the cultural battles of the interwar years in Latin America and current debates over the role of the peripheral nation-state within the culture of globalization. Rosenberg establishes that the Latin American avant-garde evolved on its own terms, in polemic dialogue with the European movements, critiquing modernity itself and developing a global geopolitical awareness. In the process these writers created a bridge between postcolonial and postmodern culture, forming a distinct movement that continues its influence today.
In the Andes, indigenous knowledge systems based on the relationships between different beings, both earthly and heavenly, animal and plant, have been central to the organization of knowledge since precolonial times. The legacies of colonialism and the continuance of indigenous cultures make the Andes a unique place from which to think about art and social change as ongoing, and as encompassing more than an exclusively human perspective. Beyond Human revises established readings of the avant-gardes in Peru and Bolivia as humanizing and historical. By presenting fresh readings of canonical authors like César Vallejo, José María Arguedas, and Magda Portal, and through analysis of newer artist-activists like Julieta Paredes, Mujeres Creando Comunidad, and Alejandra Dorado, Daly argues instead that avant-gardes complicate questions of agency and contribute to theoretical discussions on vital materialisms: the idea that life happens between animate and inanimate beings—human and non-human—and is made sensible through art.
Published by Bucknell University Press. Distributed worldwide by Rutgers University Press.
Crimes of Art and Terror
Frank Lentricchia and Jody McAuliffe University of Chicago Press, 2003 Library of Congress PN761.L46 2003 | Dewey Decimal 809.911
Do killers, artists, and terrorists need one another? In Crimes of Art and Terror, Frank Lentricchia and Jody McAuliffe explore the disturbing adjacency of literary creativity to violence and even political terror. Lentricchia and McAuliffe begin by anchoring their penetrating discussions in the events of 9/11 and the scandal provoked by composer Karlheinz Stockhausen's reference to the destruction of the World Trade Center as a great work of art, and they go on to show how political extremism and avant-garde artistic movements have fed upon each other for at least two centuries.
Crimes of Art and Terror reveals how the desire beneath many romantic literary visions is that of a terrifying awakening that would undo the West's economic and cultural order. This is also the desire, of course, of what is called terrorism. As the authority of writers and artists recedes, it is criminals and terrorists, Lentricchia and McAuliffe suggest, who inherit this romantic, destructive tradition. Moving freely between the realms of high and popular culture, and fictional and actual criminals, the authors describe a web of impulses that catches an unnerving spirit.
Lentricchia and McAuliffe's unorthodox approach pairs Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment with Martin Scorsese's King of Comedy and connects the real-life Unabomber to the surrealist Joseph Cornell and to the hero of Bret Easton Ellis's bestselling novel American Psycho. They evoke a desperate culture of art through thematic dialogues among authors and filmmakers as varied as Don DeLillo, Joseph Conrad, Francis Ford Coppola, Jean Genet, Frederick Douglass, Hermann Melville, and J. M. Synge, among others. And they conclude provocatively with an imagined conversation between Heinrich von Kleist and Mohamed Atta. The result is a brilliant and unflinching reckoning with the perilous proximity of the impulse to create transgressive art and the impulse to commit violence.
The "texts" of Russian artist and thinker Daniil Kharms (1905-1942) were so many and varied and often unique (narrative, dramatic, philosophical, poetic, mathematical, pictographic, diagrammatic, musical, biographical) that they defied categorization—and, thus, thorough study or appreciation—through much of the twentieth century. This book, the first in English to view Kharms’s oeuvre in its entirety, is also the first to offer a complete, inclusive, and coherent understanding of the overall project of this artist and writer now considered a major figure in the modernist canon of Europe.
In The Ecology of Modernism, Joshua Schuster examines the relationships of key modernist writers, poets, and musicians to nature, industrial development, and pollution. He posits that the curious failure of modernist poets to develop an environmental ethic was a deliberate choice and not an inadvertent omission.
In his opening passage, Schuster boldly invokes lines from Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” which echo as a paean to pollution: “Burn high your fires, foundry chimneys! cast black shadows at nightfall!” Schuster labels this theme “regeneration through pollution” and demonstrates how this motif recurs in modernist compositions. This tolerance for, if not actual exultation of, the by-products of industrialization hindered modernist American artists, writers, and musicians from embracing environmentalist agendas.
Schuster provides specific case studies focusing on Marianne Moore and her connection of fables with animal rights; Gertrude Stein and concepts of nature in her avant-garde poetics; early blues music and poetry and the issue of how environmental disasters (floods, droughts, pestilence) affected black farmers and artists in the American South; and John Cage, who extends the modernist avant-garde project formally but critiques it at the same time for failing to engage with ecology. A fascinating afterword about the role of oil in modernist literary production rounds out this work.
Schuster masterfully shines a light on the modernist interval between the writings of bucolic and nature-extolling Romantics and the emergence of a self-conscious green movement in the 1960s. This rewarding work shows that the reticence of modernist poets in the face of resource depletion, pollution, animal rights, and other ecological traumas is highly significant.
A daring and innovative study that rewrites the story of American pragmatism.
Emancipating Pragmatism is a radical rereading of Emerson that posits African- American culture, literature, and jazz as the very continuation and embodiment of pragmatic thought and democratic tradition. It traces Emerson's philosophical legacy through the 19th and 20th centuries to discover how Emersonian thought continues to inform issues of race, aesthetics, and poetic discourse.
Emerson's pragmatism derives from his abolitionism, Michael Magee argues, and any pragmatic thought that aspires toward democracy cannot ignore and must reckon with its racial roots. Magee looks at the ties between pragmatism and African-American culture as they manifest themselves in key texts and movements, such as William Carlos Williams's poetry; Ralph Ellison's discourse in Invisible Man and Juneteenth and his essays on jazz; the poetic works of Robert Creeley, Amiri Baraka, and Frank O'Hara; as well as the "new jazz" being forged at clubs like The Five Spot in New York.
Ultimately, Magee calls into question traditional maps of pragmatist lineage and ties pragmatism to the avant-garde American tradition.
Michael Magee teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence.
From the outset, experimental writing has been viewed as a means to afford a more creative space for students to express individuality, underrepresented social realities, and criticisms of dominant socio-political discourses and their institutions. Yet, the recent trend toward multimedia texts has left many composition instructors with little basis from which to assess these new forms and to formulate pedagogies. In this original study, Patricia Suzanne Sullivan provides a critical history of experimental writing theory and its aesthetic foundations and demonstrates their application to current multimodal writing.
Sullivan unpacks the work of major scholars in composition and rhetoric and their theories on aesthetics, particularly avant-gardism. She also relates the dialectics that shape these aesthetics and sheds new light on both the positive and negative aspects of experimental writing and its attempts to redefine the writing disciplines. Additionally, she shows how current debates over the value of multimedia texts echo earlier arguments that pitted experimental writing against traditional models. Sullivan further articulates the ways that multimedia is and isn’t changing composition pedagogies, and provides insights into resolving these tensions.
In this groundbreaking volume, Krzysztof Ziarek rethinks modern experience by bringing together philosophical critiques of modernity and avant-garde poetry. Ziarek explores, through selective readings of avant-garde poetry, the key aspects of the radical critique of experience: technology, everydayness, event, and sexual difference. To that extent, The Historicity of Experience is less a book about the avant-garde than a critique of experience through the avant-garde. Ziarek reads the avant-garde in dialogue with the work of some of the major critics of modernity (Martin Heidegger, Walter Benjamin, Jean-François Lyotard, and Luce Irigaray) to show how avant-garde experiments bear critically on the issue of modern experience and its technological organization.
The four poets Ziarek considers-Gertrude Stein, Velimir Khlebnikov, Miron Biaoszewski, and Susan Howe-demonstrate the broad reach of and variety of forms taken by the avant-garde revision of experience and aesthetics. Moreover, this quartet illustrates how the main operative concepts and strategies of the avant-garde underpinned the practices of canonical writers. A profound philosophical meditation on language, modernity, and the everyday, The Historicity of Experience offers a fundamental reconceptualization of the avant-garde in relation to experience.
A history of fragmentary—or interrupted—writing in avant-garde poetry and prose by a renowned literary critic.
In Interruptions: The Fragmentary Aesthetic in Modern Literature, Gerald L. Bruns explores the effects of parataxis, or fragmentary writing as a device in modern literature. Bruns focuses on texts that refuse to follow the traditional logic of sequential narrative. He explores numerous examples of self-interrupting composition, starting with Friedrich Schlegel's inaugural theory and practice of the fragment as an assertion of the autonomy of words, and their freedom from rule-governed hierarchies.
Bruns opens the book with a short history of the fragment as a distinctive feature of literary modernism in works from Gertrude Stein to Paul Celan to present-day authors. The study progresses to the later work of Maurice Blanchot and Samuel Beckett, and argues, controversially, that Blanchot's writings on the fragment during the 1950s and early 1960s helped to inspire Beckett’s turn toward paratactic prose.
The study also extends to works of poetry, examining the radically paratactic arrangements of two contemporary British poets, J. H. Prynne and John Wilkinson, focusing chiefly on their most recent, and arguably most abstruse, works. Bruns also offers a close study of the poetry and poetics of Charles Bernstein.
Interruptions concludes with two chapters about James Joyce. First, Bruns tackles the language of Finnegans Wake, namely the break-up of words themselves, its reassembly into puns, neologisms, nonsense, and even random strings of letters. Second, Bruns highlights the experience of mirrors in Joyce’s fiction, particularly in Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Ulysses, where mirrored reflections invariably serve as interruptions, discontinuities, or metaphorical displacements and proliferations of self-identity.
OBERIU is an anthology of short works by three leading Russian absurdists: Alexander Vvedensky, Daniil Kharms, and Nikolai Zabolotsky. Between 1927 and 1930, the three made up the core of an avant-garde literary group called OBERIU (from an acronym standing for The Union of Real Art). It was a movement so artfully anarchic, and so quickly suppressed, that readers only began to discover its strange and singular brilliance three decades after it was extinguished—and then only in samizdat and émigré publications.
Some called it the last of the Russian avant-garde, and others called it the first (and last) instance of Absurdism in Russia. Though difficulty to pigeon-hole, OBERIU and the pleasures of its poetry and prose are, with this volume, at long last fully open to English-speaking readers. Skillfully translated to preserve the weird charm of the originals, these poems and prose pieces display all the hilarity and tragedy, the illogical action and puppetlike violence and eroticism, and the hallucinatory intensity that brought down the wrath of the Soviet censors. Today they offer an uncanny reflection of the distorted reality they reject.
Slapstick comedy landed like a pie in the face of twentieth-century culture. Pratfalls percolated alongside literary modernism throughout the 1920s and 1930s before slapstick found explosive expression in postwar literature, experimental film, and popular music. William Solomon charts the origins and evolution of what he calls slapstick modernism --a merging of artistic experimentation with the socially disruptive lunacy made by the likes of Charlie Chaplin. Romping through texts, films, and theory, Solomon embarks on an intellectual odyssey from the high modernism of Dos Passos and Williams to the late modernism of the Beats and Burroughs before a head-on crash into the raw power of punk rock. Throughout, he shows the links between the experimental writers and silent screen performers of the early century, and explores the potent cultural undertaking that drew inspiration from anarchical comedy after World War II.
After the second World War, the term “technology” came to signify both the anxieties of possible annihilation in a rapidly changing world and the exhilaration of accelerating cultural change. Technomodern Poetics examines how some of the most well-known writers of the era described the tensions between technical, literary, and media cultures at the dawn of the Digital Age. Poets and writers such as Allen Ginsberg, Charles Olson, Jack Kerouac, and Frank O’Hara, among others, anthologized in Donald Allen’s iconic The New American Poetry, 1945–1960, provided a canon of work that has proven increasingly relevant to our technological present. Elaborating on the theories of contemporaneous technologists such as Norbert Wiener, Claude Shannon, J. C. R. Licklider, and a host of noteworthy others, these artists express the anxieties and avant-garde impulses they wrestled with as they came to terms with a complex array of issues raised by the dawning of the nuclear age, computer-based automation, and the expansive reach of electronic media. As author Todd Tietchen reveals, even as these writers were generating novel forms and concerns, they often continued to question whether such technological changes were inherently progressive or destructive.
With an undeniable timeliness, Tietchen’s book is sure to appeal to courses in modern English literature and American studies, as well as among fans of Beat writers and early Cold War culture.
Using experimental style as a framework for close readings of writings produced by late twentieth-century North American women, Deborah Mix places Gertrude Stein at the center of a feminist and multicultural account of twentieth-century innovative writing. Her meticulously argued work maps literary affiliations that connect Stein to the work of Harryette Mullen, Daphne Marlatt, Betsy Warland, Lyn Hejinian, and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. By distinguishing a vocabulary-which is flexible, evolving, and simultaneously individual and communal--from a lexicon-which is recorded, fixed, and carries the burden of masculine authority--Mix argues that Stein's experimentalism both enables and demands the complex responses of these authors.
Arguing that these authors have received relatively little attention because of the difficulty in categorizing them, Mix brings the writing of women of color, lesbians, and collaborative writers into the discussion of experimental writing. Thus, rather than exploring conventional lines of influence, she departs from earlier scholarship by using Stein and her work as a lens through which to read the ways these authors have renegotiated tradition, authority, and innovation.
Building on the tradition of experimental or avant-garde writing in the United States, Mix questions the politics of the canon and literary influence, offers close readings of previously neglected contemporary writers whose work doesn't fit within conventional categories, and by linking genres not typically associated with experimentalism-lyric, epic, and autobiography-challenges ongoing reevaluations of innovative writing.
Winner, 2015 International Research Society in Children's Literature (IRSCL) Book Award
Voiceless Vanguard: The Infantilist Aesthetic of the Russian Avant-Garde offers a new approach to the Russian avant-garde. It argues that central writers, artists, and theorists of the avant-garde self-consciously used an infantile aesthetic, as inspired by children’s art, language, perspective, and logic, to accomplish the artistic renewal they were seeking in literature, theory, and art. It treats the influence of children’s drawings on the Neo-Primitivist art of Mikhail Larionov, the role of children’s language in the Cubo-Futurist poetics of Aleksei Kruchenykh, the role of the naive perspective in the Formalist theory of Viktor Shklovsky, and the place of children’s logic and lore in Daniil Kharms’s absurdist writings for children and adults. This interdisciplinary and cultural study not only illuminates a rich period in Russian culture but also offers implications for modernism in a wider Western context, where similar principles apply.
Here is a celebration and an analysis of four Québécois feminist rebels whose self-conscious revolt against language has put them at the forefront of experimental writing in Quebec. These women—Nicole Brossard, Madeleine Gagnon, Louky Bersianik, and France Theoret—are attempting to explode male-dominated language and to construct a new language and literature of women.
In this first major study of their work in English, Karen Gould examines in depth these women’s literary visions and the new ways in which they communicate those visions. Gould broadens her book’s appeal by showing how these four women’s works, in modern forms of experimental literature, are shaped not only by Quebec feminism, politics, and culture but by American and French influences as well.