The Social Ontology of Art under Capitalism

Book Pages: 232 Illustrations: 30 illustrations, incl. 21 in color Published: April 2019

Author: Nicholas Brown

Art and Visual Culture > Art Criticism and Theory, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory, Theory and Philosophy > Marxism

In Autonomy Nicholas Brown theorizes the historical and theoretical argument for art's autonomy from its acknowledged character as a commodity. Refusing the position that the distinction between art and the commodity has collapsed, Brown demonstrates how art can, in confronting its material determinations, suspend the logic of capital by demanding interpretive attention. He applies his readings of Marx, Hegel, Adorno, and Jameson to a range of literature, photography, music, television, and sculpture, from Cindy Sherman's photography and the novels of Ben Lerner and Jennifer Egan to The Wire and the music of the White Stripes. He demonstrates that through their attention and commitment to form, such artists turn aside the determination posed by the demand of the market, thereby defeating the foreclosure of meaning entailed in commodification. In so doing, he offers a new theory of art that prompts a rethinking of the relationship between art, critical theory, and capitalism.


"In Autonomy, Brown revitalizes a modernist commitment to form and offers a compelling vision of the work of art in the age of its commodification." — Adam Theron-Lee Rensch, Los Angeles Review of Books

"The most compelling and convincing argument is in his final chapter, 'Modernism on TV' in which Brown explores how the aesthicisation of genre is another strategy necessary for close interpretive analysis of the work of art." — Alexandra Hall, Art Monthly

"With wide-ranging scholarship, brilliant and learned commentary, and prose that is impressive for its energy and clarity, Nicholas Brown has written a book that accomplishes what no other work has. A major contribution." — Michael Fried, author of What Was Literary Impressionism?

“In a series of deft and frequently astonishing readings ranging from Richard Linklater's films and Charles Ray's totaled cars to the White Stripes' music and Jennifer Egan's novels, Nicholas Brown's startlingly intelligent Autonomy transforms our understanding of contemporary aesthetic philosophy, literature, and theories of art.” — Lisa Siraganian, author of Modernism’s Other Work: The Art Object’s Political Life


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Price: $25.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Nicholas Brown is Associate Professor of English and African American Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, author of Utopian Generations: The Political Horizon of Twentieth-Century Literature, and coeditor of Contemporary Marxist Theory: A Reader.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction. On Art and the Commodity Form  1
1. Photography as Film and Film as Photography  41
2. The Novel and the Ruse of the Work  79
3. Citation and Affect in Music  115
4. Modernism on TV  152
Epilogue. Taking Sides  178
Notes  183
Bibliography  207
Index  215
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0159-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0124-9
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