By P. Caughie
A Poiret gown, a Catholic shrine in France, Thomas Wallis's Hoover manufacturing unit development, an Edna Manley sculpture, the poetry of Bei Dao, the interior combustion engine- what makes such artifacts modernist? Disciplining Modernism explores the several methods disciplines conceive modernism and modernity, undisciplining modernist experiences within the strategy.
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Extra info for Disciplining Modernism
18 Modernist studies tends to produce three distinct configurations in the politics of definition: the binary, the circle, and the metonym. Recognizing all three helps to expose the flows of power in the institutionalization of knowledge. The binary The definitional act itself typically depends upon a binary of inclusion and exclusion. Depending on who does the defining, certain phenomena belong to the category of modern, modernity, or modernism. Other phenomena do not. By definition. ’ Attempts to establish permeable borderlands instead of fixed boundaries and liminal spaces of considerable intermixing between differences diffuse to some extent the territorial imperative of definition but cannot ultimately eliminate the function of categories to demarcate some phenomena in opposition to others which do not belong.
The same figures are there, but they signify differently—everyone looks the same, but they are also clearly different: maybe they have lost weight or gained it; is that a new hairstyle, new glasses? Though we never, of course, had access to the ‘authentic’ Pound, for example, the new Pound still appears as a doppelgänger of the old one, a double with a difference. And though this doubling might optimistically be taken as ‘an assurance of immortality’ for ‘Pound,’ it also ‘becomes the uncanny harbinger of death’ (Freud 940)—the more real the new Pound, the less substantial the old, and the more ephemeral each.
On the one hand, its authority comes precisely from its claim to repeat modernism: modernism was never singular and thus the declaration of plural modernisms only does justice to a multifarious and complex set of global phenomena occurring at different rates and times, and in different places. On the other hand, the new modernist drive to render the monolithic ‘old’ modernism plural is itself a form of the imperative to make it new (again). It is a recovery effort that seeks in part to leapfrog the previous critical constructions of modernism and to confront the phenomena themselves in their myriad complexity with an unprecedented authenticity and accuracy.
Disciplining Modernism by P. Caughie