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Modernism, Inc.

Body, Memory, Capital

Jani Scandura, Michael Thurston

Publication Year: 2001

Drawing on a variety of interdisciplinary debates in cultural studies and contemporary theory, Modernism, Inc. provides a new look at the relationship between modernism and postmodernism within the critical frame of twentieth-century American culture.

Organized around the idea of "incorporation"--embodiment, repressed memory, and advanced capitalism--Modernism, Inc. covers a wide range of topics: Josephine Baker's "hot house style"; the president's penis in American political life; myth-making and the Hoover Dam; trauma, poetics, and the Armenian genocide; feminist kitsch and the recuperation of North America's "Great Lady painters"; Gertrude Stein and Jewish Social Science; the Reno Divorce Factory and the production of gender; Andy Razaf and Black Bolshevism. Collectively, the essays suggest that the relationship between the modern and the postmodern is not one of rupture, belatedness, dilution, or extremity, but of haunting.

Modernism, Inc. looks at our ghosts, and at the unspeakable secrets of modernity from which they're derived.

Contributors: Maria Damon, Walter Kalidjian, Walter Lew, Janet Lyon, William J. Maxwell, Cary Nelson, John Timberman Newcombe, David G. Nicholls, Thomas Pepper, Paula Rabinowitz, Daniel Rosenberg, Marlon Ross, Jani Scandura, Kathleen Stewart, Julia Walker.

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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Introduction: America and the Phantom Modern

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pp. 1-17

John Kennedy (the son, not the father) was killed while we were completing this project. As a result, these essays will always be haunted by his image: the toddler saluting his father's coffin; the curly-headed hunk in graduation garb; the self-assured editor, his ice-princess wife on...

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I. Body

The essays in part 1 are concerned with how issues of embodiment and materiality figure within and construct the historical, cultural, spatial, and psychological manifestations of modernity. In "Machine Dreams," a haunting analysis of the daydreams of a drunk lying down on a train...

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1. Machine Dreams

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pp. 21-28

Laurie Anderson had a performance exhibit at the Soho Guggenheim called Your Fortune, $1. A spooky white plastic owl perched on a stool in a darkened corner of the museum droned on and on in a computer-synthesized voice that was at once eerily mechanical and sensuously grainy. ...

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2. Josephine Baker's Hothouse

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pp. 29-47

Josephine Baker has always been treated as an enigmatic figure by cultural critics, not least because her biography pulls together threads from so many areas of inquiry staked out by cultural studies: she was an African American woman born into the country's worst phase of institutionalized racism. ...

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3. Trespassing the Colorline: Aggressive Mobility and Sexual Transgression in the Construction of New Negro Modernity

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pp. 48-67

The modern concept of the New Negro emerges in the post-Reconstruction period in response to the intensification and dissemination of Jim Crow strictures, which follow upon the heels of African Americans as they migrate cityward and/or northward in the hope of finding a larger...

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4. Bodies, Voices, Words: Modern Drama and the Problem of the Literary

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pp. 68-80

With the wide-scale implementation of telegraph, telephone, phonograph, radio, and silent film technologies at the turn of the twentieth century, the felt experience of communication radically altered. When a pattern of electrical impulses could be sent across the continent and decoded...

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II. Memory

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pp. 81-83

The essays in part 2 suggest that if modernity may be read as traumatic, the traces of those traumas of migration, transformation, and terror reveal themselves quietly in cryptic aesthetic forms, narrative leakages, and phantasmatic imagery. Daniel Rosenberg's essay, "No One Is...

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5. No One is Buried in Hoover Dam

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pp. 84-106

There is a technical story they tell about the Hoover Dam. Historians tell it. Reporters tell it. And the Bureau of Reclamation honors it as a point of faith. No one is buried in the Hoover Dam.1 ...

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6. The Edge of Modernism: Genocide

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pp. 107-132

Seldom in the theories of social, cultural, and aesthetic modernisms has the repeated trauma of genocide appeared on the list of what defines the modern condition. Benchmarks in the critical reception of modernism would include Nietzsche's proclamation of the death of God in...

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7. Writing, Social Science, and Ethnicity in Gertrude Stein and Certain Others

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pp. 133-150

In October 1995, "L-A-N-G-U-A-G-E" poet Charles Bernstein and I participated by telephone in a Gertrude Stein hour on WBAI Radio's Beyond the Pale, organized by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. (The gay and lesbian activist wing of the group had requested Stein as the...

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8. Jean Toomer's Cane, Modernization, and the Spectral Folk

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pp. 151-170

Cane's engagement with both modernity and modernization has been at once the book's most attractive and elusive feature. Because Toomer's 1923 text addresses daily life in the rural South at the beginning of its transformation, it has about it the air of portent, of bearing...

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9. Grafts, Transplants, Translation: The Americanizing of Younghill Kang

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pp. 171-190

The birth date of Younghill Kang, the first prominent Korean American author, remains unclear. According to some sources, "Kang Yong-h˜ul" (Kang's Korean name) was born in or around 1898 in Hongw˜on County, in the northeastern Korean province of Hamgy˜ong Nam-do.1 ...

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III. Capital

The essays in part 3 consider the cultural and political legacies of economic Americanization and corporatization, and the production of a laboring and consuming subject. Paula Rabinowitz argues that feminism may be read as a vernacular modernism. ...

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10. Great Lady Painters, Inc.: Icons of Feminism, Modernism, and the Nation

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pp. 193-218

In 1996, to honor the hundredth anniversary of the birth of "the most renowned of . . . American women painters," the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp featuring one of Georgia O'Keeffe's Red Poppy paintings.1 ...

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11. Kitchen Mechanics and Parlor Nationalists: Andy Razaf, Black Bolshevism, and Harlem's Renaissance

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pp. 219-237

The first extended musical allusion in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man (1952), African American modernism's most insistently allusive and musical novel, involves a bluesy torch song with an axe to grind. Near the climax of the monologue that fills the novel's prologue...

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12. Reno-vating Gender: Place, Production, and the Reno Divorce Factory

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pp. 238-267

Divorceés always arrived in Reno by train. They hopped on the Twentieth Century at Grand Central, switched in Chicago to the Overland Limited, and three days later stepped out of their Pullman cars at the Reno Union Pacific Station, where fatherly divorce attorneys gathered them...

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13. Politics and Labor in Poetry of the Fin de Siècle and Beyond: Fragments of an Unwritable History

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pp. 268-288

For much of this century we have known that poetry is a palimpsest, that it is layered with earlier poems, with the memory of earlier poems and with echoes of poems forgotten that speak through us now unawares. Both the institutions that promote poetry and the multiple audiences...


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pp. 289-292


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pp. 293-311

E-ISBN-13: 9780814786758
E-ISBN-10: 0814786758
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814781364
Print-ISBN-10: 0814781365

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2001

OCLC Number: 794701107
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Modernism, Inc.

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Subject Headings

  • Modernism (Art) -- United States.
  • Art, American -- 20th century.
  • American literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • United States -- Civilization -- 20th century.
  • Art and society -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Literature and society -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Modernism (Literature) -- United States.
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