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Modernist Objects

Edited by Noëlle Cuny and Xavier Kalck

Modernist Objects is a unique mix of cultural studies, literature, and visual arts applied to the discrete materiality of modernist objects. The simultaneously physical and ideological nature of objects has made them remarkably transparent to critical inquiries into their aesthetic, political, social, historical, or philosophical uses and meanings. This book identifies three processes at work in the apprehension of objects in poetry, prose, visual arts, culture, and crafts. If the first instinct of the modernist novelists and playwrights was to object to the realist tradition of objects as more or less stable inherited signifiers, they felt themselves equally free, we find, to take up humanity as their object. The human body, emotions, and mind were endowed with newfound plasticity, and it was now the artist’s and the writer’s task to fashion them after their own image, mobilizing and expanding them through objects seen as relational and connective catalysts for the modernist subject. Finally, the futile and decorative object is explored. From Baroness Elsa performing the commodity fetish to Jean Rhys performing the dissolution of the self in a frenzy of sartorial ornament, the agency of surface detail (misplaced, proliferating, or repurposed) is made manifest and given free play.

“Modernist Objects is a thorough and diverse essay collection that will interest specialists and novices alike. . . . Each essay [brings] us a new perspective on its corpus. We understand better through this objects-aesthetic approach how objects are functioning within literature or art, and in some cases, the particular connection of the objects to the writer or artist.”
—Amy D. Wells, TransAtlantica

Table of Contents

Part One: Objecting to Realism
1. Objectionable Objects | Douglas Mao
2. “Such density of furniture defeats imagination”: Beckett’s Post-War Room and the Inheritance of Things | Martin Schauss
3. From Eggbeaters and Alcohol to Gryphons, Dolls, and Puppets: The Affective Mobilities of Djuna Barnes’s Objects | Pavlina Radia
4. Tradition and the Test-Tube Baby | Rachel Bowlby

Part Two: Fashioning the Human
5. The Fabric of Home: Cotton Cloth between Ontology and Use-Value in Paul Klee’s, Varvara Stepanova’s and Lyubov Popova’s Artwork | Sanja Bahun
6. Computer Science for (Live) Modernism(s): Magazines as Metaobjects | Louise Kane
7. “Twang the lyre and rattle the lexicon”: Harps and Lyres in Modernist Poetry | Jennifer Kilgore-Caradec
8. Louise Bourgeois’s Melancholy Objects to be Used | Lynn M. Somers

Part Three: Performing the Ornamental
9. Limbswish: Baroness Elsa’s “Ready-to-Wear” Poem-Objects | Yasna Bozhkova
10. The Furniture of Alter-Modernism: Eileen Gray’s and Le Corbusier’s Two Orientalisms | Maurizia Boscagli
11. “LOST! HANSOME GOLE BROOCH.” Broken, Lost and Forgotten Objects in Woolf, Mansfield and Stein | Nonia Williams
12. Diasporic Modernism: Memory, the Object and Jean Rhys’s Good Morning, Midnight (1939) | Justine Baillie

About the Editors

Noëlle Cuny is Associate Professor, English Department, University of Upper Alsace, France.

Xavier Kalck is Associate Professor, English Department, Sorbonne University, France.

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Pages: 300 pages

Published: October 2020


ISBN: 978-1-949979-50-3

ISBN: 978-1-949979-51-0




Seminal Modernisms