Bad Modernisms by Douglas Mao, Rebecca L. Walkowitz

By Douglas Mao, Rebecca L. Walkowitz

Modernism is scorching back. on the sunrise of the twenty-first century, poets and designers, designers and critics, lecturers and artists are rediscovering the virtues of the former century’s such a lot shiny cultural constellation. but this common include increases questions about modernism’s relation to its personal luck. Modernism’s “badness”—its emphasis on outrageous habit, its elevation of negativity, its refusal to be condoned—seems necessary to its energy. yet as soon as modernism is authorised as “good” or priceless (as loads of modernist artwork now is), its prestige as a subversive aesthetic intervention turns out undermined. The members to undesirable Modernisms tease out the contradictions in modernism’s dedication to badness.

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What Blanchot calls the Manifesto’s “impatience” is first of all an impatience with itself, with the fact that it cannot be more than a call, a cry, a demand, an impatience with the fact that no matter how impassioned and effective, the manifesto will always remain a split second removed from the actual revolution itself. Throughout its subsequent history, the manifesto will be defined by this impatience, by the attempt to undo the distinction between speech and action, between words and the revolution.

Just as Austin rejects the manifesto, so he rejects the notion of theatricality, which is so central to understanding this genre. Austin excludes the theater as a space where normal speech acts no longer function precisely because they are not backed up by authority and a properly authorizing context. If you say “I do” on the stage, you are not getting legally married, after all. Nevertheless, Austin’s theory has been haunted by this excluded theatricality and, ironically, has been particularly influential in studies of dramatic literature.

He turns to a past when “Germany produced characters that could be placed next to the great revolutionaries of other countries” (329). , Martin Luther] ignited like lightning a barrel of powder” (372). Mu¨nzer’s impact, and also the means with which he tried to achieve it, are more difficult to evaluate. Even though Engels admires Mu¨nzer as a revolutionary much more radical than Luther, he also recognizes Mu¨nzer’s limitations, seeing in him a tragic revolutionary who was forced to hold together an alliance of plebeian priests, pauperized citizens, and the fragmented mass of exploited peasants when he would have 14 C H A P T E R O N E needed a unified proletariat.

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