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Title:Writing to Shake the World: The Historical Avant-Garde, Political Postmodernism and the Post-Avant-Garde
Author(s):Finnegan, Jim
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Nelson, Cary
Department / Program:English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Anthropology, Cultural
Abstract:Writing to Shake the World presents a Cultural Studies analysis of reoccurring ideas and issues in critical discussions of Modernism, the Avant-Garde, and Postmodernism. Drawing on Andreas Huyssen's work on the relationship between Modernism, mass culture and Postmodernism, I begin by defining "political postmodernism" as a critical term that enables a productive tension between avant-garde artist intellectuals and mass media journalism. Writing to Shake the World analyzes this dialectic at three specific moments across a postmodern continuum in twentieth century American cultural life, ranging from: (1) the New York historical avant-garde of the 1910s, (2) the neo-avant-garde interventions of 1960s Pop Art, and (3) "alternative" music and youth subculture scenes in the 1990s. What I am offering first and foremost is way of reading John Reed and the early(post)modernist disruptions of the New York historical avant-garde--a way of reading, part revisionist literary history and part popular culture criticism, which is appropriate to both Reed and to contemporary Cultural Studies ideas about reading, identity and culture. Locating certain postmodern moments within the convergence of early modernist art and international Left politics in the 1910s, Part One of Writing to Shake the World argues that we have been spending most of the twentieth century catching up to Reed, who, as one of America's most popular and controversial literary journalists and avant-garde radicals of the 1910s, had an intuitive understanding of discourse, politics, pop culture and public identity which postmodern theory and practice would later develop. In Part Two, I leap ahead through a consideration of the neo-avant-garde politics of Warhol's popism as that gets represented in Don DeLillo's novel Mao II, before concluding with an analysis of the more distinctly post-avant-garde disruptions of contemporary "alternative"/Gen X youth culture scenes (ACT UP AIDSdemographics, ZOO TV, Riot Grrrl, Grunge, hip-hop, etc.) as they get represented and disseminated by Spin magazine. By mapping out a cultural terrain that connects John Reed and the historical avant-garde to Spin magazine and the post-avant-garde, this book adds its voice to political postmodernism's on-going struggle to free itself from the discourses of High Modernism. In doing so, this study may also impact recent reconsiderations of the role of cosmopolitan discourses in Cultural Studies' on-going recuperation and rearticulation of the specifically internationalist cultural-politics initiated by many of Reed's contemporaries, such as Randolph Bourne in his 1916 essay "Trans-National America.".
Issue Date:1998
Description:380 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1998.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI9904454
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:1998

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