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The End of the American Avant Garde

American Social Experience Series

Stuart Hobbs

Publication Year: 1997

"By 1966, the composer Virgil Thomson would write, "Truth is, there is no avant-garde today." How did the avant garde dissolve, and why? In this thought-provoking work, Stuart D. Hobbs traces the avant garde from its origins to its eventual appropriation by a conservative political agenda, consumer culture, and the institutional world of art.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xii

I would like to thank John C. Burnham at The Ohio State University for first suggesting to me that the end of the avant garde was a question worth answering. This book benefited greatly from his reading, as well as . . .

Part I. Toward the Last American Vanguard 1930-1955

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Chapter 1. Introduction: The Avant Garde and the Culture of the Future

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pp. 3-17

I n 1935, David Bernstein, editor of the American literary magazine The New Talent, characterized the avant garde as a group of writers motivated by the "spirit of revolt . . . against . . .

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Chapter 2. The Communist Party, Modernism, and the Avant Garde

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pp. 19-37

As the 1930s generation of American avant gardists sought a specific direction for cultural advance, many increasingly came to believe that the answer was to be found . . .

Part II. The American Avant Garde 1945-1960

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Chapter 3. Alienation

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pp. 41-57

In a 1956 poem entitled "The Suicide," Stuart Z. Perkoff noted that in the aftermath of such a tragedy, the question asked out loud was always "Why did he do it?" But Perkoff argued that the most important question remained unasked, festering inside and . . .

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Chapter 4. Innovation

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pp. 59-91

Cultural radicals are defined by more than their state of alienation from their culture; creative innovation is equally important. Poet and editor Cid Corman said in . . .

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Chapter 5, The Future

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pp. 93-111

Members of the last American vanguard, like previous avant gardists, understood themselves to be explorers on the frontiers of the future. They did not believe . . .

Part III. The End of the Avant Garde 1950-1965

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Chapter 6. The Cold War, Cultural Radicalism, and the Defense of Capitalism

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pp. 115-123

Political leaders of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union defined the struggle as a war between cultures. The conflict between the "American way . . .

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Chapter 7. Institutional Enthrallment

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pp. 125-138

The assimilation of the advance guard that accompanied the Cold War gained the movement a place in cultural institutions from which it had historically been alienated. . . .

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Chapter 8. Consumer Culture Commodification

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pp. 139-168

By 1965, the relationship between avant gardists and their culture had changed greatly. Increasingly, innovative intellectuals were no longer alienated outsiders but . . .

Part IV. The End of the Avant Garde 1965-1995

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Chapter 9. The Convention of Innovation and the End of the Future

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pp. 171-186

In 1980, the German philosopher Jiirgen Habermas pronounced this verdict on modernism: "Modernism is dominant but dead." Habermas's dictum describes the ironic fate of the . . .

Notes

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pp. 187-213

Bibliographical Essay

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pp. 215-224

Index

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pp. 225-230


E-ISBN-13: 9780814744857
E-ISBN-10: 0814744850
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814735381
Print-ISBN-10: 081473538X

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 1997

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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
  • Avant-garde (Aesthetics) -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
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