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Volume 1, Issue 1 (Summer 2005)


THE AURA OF MODERNISM, PP. 1-14

Marjorie Perloff

Marjorie Perloff’s wide-ranging essay reflects on the fate of Modernism in the twentieth century. She focuses in particular on claims that it was either elitist and authoritarian, and thus politically reactionary, or was caught up in processes of capitalist commodification, and therefore unable to resist the very alienation it diagnosed. In the period that ran from the 1960s to the early 1990s Modernism was typically seen as a failed project, which was compromised by its complicity with the bourgeois institution of art and by the reification of its art-works, seen now as the dead exhibits of a once resonant cultural moment. But it has become apparent that those who trumpeted the death of Modernism were premature with their obituary notices. Perloff traces some of the major shifts in recent critical work, and her essay questions earlier claims about Modernism’s reactionary politics, anti-populism, and rejection of the everyday. She also draws attention to the non-academic interest in Modernism that is rife on the internet, where, in fulfilment of Benjamin’s prophecy, the distinction between artist and public has broken down and the “pleasure of the text” takes precedence over concerns with ideology. Perloff suggests that although genres such as poems, paintings, and novels have to some extent been displaced by “differential text”, Modernism’s established artefacts continue to “stay news” and to exert their strange auratic power.

Marjorie Perloff is Sadie D. Patek Professor Emerita of Humanities in the Department of English at Stanford University. Email: mperloff@earthlink.net


WITH A PLURAL VENGEANCE: MODERNISM AS (FLAMING) BRAND, PP.15-21

Michael Coyle

In ‘With a Plural Vengeance: Modernism as (Flaming) Brand’, Michael Coyle examines the renaissance of modernism within the academic institution since the early 1990s, and the vigorous yet controversial re-branding through which this has in part been achieved. Defending this revisionary modernist studies, he argues that the issue for contemporary scholars is not primarily one of purging the elitism of a previously dominant ‘high modernist canon’, but of emphasising the pluralistic rather than singular criteria of canon-formation.

Michael Coyle is Professor of English at Colgate University. Email: MCoyle@mail.colgate.edu


THE SHROPSHIRE SCHIZOID AND THE MACHINES OF MODERNISM, PP. 22-46

Ed Comentale

In “The Shropshire Schizoid and the Machines of Modernism” Edward P. Comentale considers the work of A. E. Housman, D. H. Lawrence, and Wyndham Lewis in order to engage with modernism from a perspective indebted to the theories of Deleuze and Guattari. Comentale thus intervenes polemically in recent attempts to rethink and revise scholarly conceptions of Modernism. “The Shropshire Schizoid” argues that critical understanding of Modernism should not be based on oedipal accounts of Modernist textuality that construe desire as founded upon lack. In his detailed readings of key works by Housman, Lawrence, and Lewis, Comentale seeks to elaborate a reading practice which returns us to Modernism’s original generative power, its capacity to create new articulations of desiring-production within the circuits and flows of capitalist modernity. Contending that criticism is insufficiently attentive to the explosive impact of desire within Modernist art and writing, Comentale suggests that it should be more attuned to the productive technologies that shaped modernity. His essay thus reconceives contemporary cultural analysis as a form of impassioned engineering. Following this model, scholarship functions as a mode of production that responds to Modernism’s own deterritorializations and reterritorializations, and thus participates in an ongoing process of critical coding and recoding.

Edward P. Comentale is Associate Professor in English at Indiana University. Email: ecomenta@indiana.edu


PICTURING CHANGE: AT HOME WITH THE LEISURE CLASS IN NEW YORK CITY, 1870S TO 1910S, PP.47-58

Douglas Tallack

In ‘Picturing Change: At Home with the Leisure Class in New York City, 1870s-1910s’, Douglas Tallack draws on the work of Thorstein Veblen to explore the significance of the visual representation of domestic interior space within a leisure-class logic of consumption and display. Analysing photographic commissions undertaken by the Byron Company of the houses of New York’s Four Hundred, and paintings by the American Impressionists William Merritt Chase and Childe Hassam, he demonstrates that these images of luxury interiors did more than simply express the taste and lifestyle of the city’s new money, however, composing and re-conceptualising the interior scene into a self-contained, private space of material objects shielded from external reality, the baroque saturation of which nevertheless exposes its illusion.

Douglas Tallack is Professor of American Studies in the Department of American Canadian Studies, University of Nottingham, UK. Email: douglas.tallack@nottingham.ac.uk


MODERNISM AND THEATRICAL PERFORMANCE, PP.59-68

Kirsten Shepherd-Barr

In ‘Modernism and Theatrical Performance’ Kirsten Shepherd-Barr surveys the status of theatre within histories of modernisms and argues that despite a current claim to interdisciplinary awareness by modernist scholars, avant-garde theatrical performance remains marginalised by critical paradigms dominated by a focus on textuality and the divorce of the ‘performative’ from the theatrical within contemporary theory. She argues that narratives of modernism have yet to register the rise of performance as a field within drama and theatre studies, and advocates the re-establishment of theatrical activity within modernist historiography.

Kirsten Shepherd-Barr is Senior Lecturer in Drama at The University of Birmingham, UK. Email: k.shepherd-barr@bham.ac.uk