Bad Modernisms

Bad Modernisms

Book Pages: 376 Illustrations: 41 b&w photos Published: April 2006

Art and Visual Culture, Gender and Sexuality, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Theory

Modernism is hot again. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, poets and architects, designers and critics, teachers and artists are rediscovering the virtues of the previous century’s most vibrant cultural constellation. Yet this widespread embrace raises questions about modernism’s relation to its own success. Modernism’s “badness”—its emphasis on outrageous behavior, its elevation of negativity, its refusal to be condoned—seems essential to its power. But once modernism is accepted as “good” or valuable (as a great deal of modernist art now is), its status as a subversive aesthetic intervention seems undermined. The contributors to Bad Modernisms tease out the contradictions in modernism’s commitment to badness.

Bad Modernisms thus builds on and extends the “new modernist studies,” recent work marked by the application of diverse methods and attention to texts and artists not usually labeled as modernist. In this collection, these developments are exemplified by essays ranging from a reading of dandyism in 1920s Harlem as a performance of a “bad” black modernist imaginary to a consideration of Filipino American modernism in the context of anticolonialism. The contributors reconsider familiar figures—such as Virginia Woolf, D. H. Lawrence, Josef von Sternberg, Ludwig Wittgenstein, W. H. Auden, and Wyndham Lewis—and bring to light the work of lesser-known artists, including the writer Carlos Bulosan and the experimental filmmaker Len Lye. Examining cultural artifacts ranging from novels to manifestos, from philosophical treatises to movie musicals, and from anthropological essays to advertising campaigns, these essays signal the capaciousness and energy galvanizing the new modernist studies.

Contributors. Lisa Fluet, Laura Frost, Michael LeMahieu, Heather K. Love, Douglas Mao, Jesse Matz, Joshua L. Miller, Monica L. Miller, Sianne Ngai, Martin Puchner, Rebecca L. Walkowitz


Bad Modernisms is full of . . . observations and boldness. Those looking for new work to do will find it deeply useful as a result.” — Eric Hayout, Modernism/Modernity

Bad Modernisms testifies to the current vibrancy of modernist studies, even as it reminds us of modernism’s still vital willingness to risk uncertainty and error and failure.” — David McWhirter, Woolf Studies Annual

“These essays are a collection of bold conceptual inversions intended to show that seemingly banal, derivative, ambiguous, or puzzling works, when reinterpreted, can reveal unappreciated modernist traits. . . . [T]he younger generation of critics who deploy their analytical skills has moved the discourse on modernism forward with inventive, exuberant boundary bashing. Summing Up: Recommended.” — M. S. Vogeler, Choice

"In 'Gothic Romance' (1921), Woolf wrote that 'as literary critics are too little aware, a love of literature is often roused and for the first years nourished not by the good books, but by the bad. It will be an ill day when all the reading is done in libraries and none of it in tubes.' Bad Modernisms convinces us that modernist studies is catching up with Woolf." — Mark Hussey, Virginia Woolf Miscellany

“Bright, disquieting, and energetic, these essays bring back to life the complex political and artistic provocations of their modernisms. Badly needed.” — Rachel Bowlby, author of Carried Away: The Invention of Modern Shopping

“I envision Bad Modernisms as a linchpin in the ‘new modernist studies.’ This sprightly, compelling volume gives us a map for that conversation; offers a guide to the tangled pathways of history, criticism, and cultural practice that converge in modernist studies; and reveals the astonishingly ample, indeed global, playing field of the discourse of modernism.” — Jennifer Wicke, author of Advertising Fictions: Literature, Advertisement, and Social Reading


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Douglas Mao is Associate Professor of English at Cornell University. He is the author of Solid Objects: Modernism and the Test of Production.

Rebecca L. Walkowitz is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of Cosmopolitan Style: Modernism Beyond the Nation and a coeditor of several books, including The Turn to Ethics.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: Modernisms Bad and New / Douglas Mao and Rebecca L. Walkowitz 1

Forced Exile: Walter Pater’s Queer Modernism / Heather K. Love 19

The Aftershocks of Blast: Manifestos, Satire, and the Rear-Guard of Modernism / Martin Puchner 44

Nonsense Modernism: The Limits of Modernity and the Feelings of Philosophy in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus / Michael LeMahieu 68

The Romance of Cliche: E.M. Hull, D.H. Lawrence, and Interwar Erotic Fiction / Laura Frost 94

Virginia Woolf’s Evasion: Critical Cosmopolitanism and British Modernism / Rebecca L. Walkowitz 119

Black Venus, Blonde Venus / Sianne Ngai 145

The Black Dandy as Bad Modernist / Monica L. Miller 179

A Shaman in Common: Lewis, Auden, and the Queerness of Liberalism / Douglas Mao 206

The Gorgeous Laughter of filipino Modernity: Carlos Bulosan’s The Laughter of My Father / Joshua L. Miller 238

Hit-Man Modernism / Lisa Fluet 269

Cultures of Impression / Jesse Matz 298

Bibliography 331

Notes on Contributors 353

Index 355
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3797-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3784-3
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