Friday, November 1, 2013

Bullet points on Perloff's 21st Century Modernism

Some things I don't like about Marjorie Perloff's 21st-Century Modernism: The "New" Poetics:
  • Her periodization and movementization of modernism
  • Her apparent stance that "experimentation" and novelty in art are valuable in and of themselves
  • Her seeming belief that there is nothing but embarrassing reaction and suppression in the later T.S. Eliot
  • Her sometimes tyrannical decisions as to the "meaning" of Gertrude Stein's works
  • Her sometimes overly definitive interpretation of Marcel Duchamp's "infrathin" concept
  • Her admiration for and faith in technical virtuosity as such
Some things I do like about Marjorie Perloff's 21st-Century Modernism: The "New" Poetics:
  • Her anti-periodization and anti-movementization of modernism
  • Her understanding that the impulses and struggles of modernism are not solely the product of now-past historical forces but are always relevant
  • Her insistence that World War I, far from "causing" modernism, disrupted and deferred an already-in-progress modernism
  • Her ability in general to see past many common received opinions
  • Her examination of sound, form, and "meaning" in the early Eliot simultaneously, never treating them as somehow separate entities
  • Her openness to the multiplicity and/or irresolvability of "meaning" in Gertrude Stein's works even as she ably explicates them
  • Her decision to treat Marcel Duchamp as a poet (which he is!)
  • Her treatment of the "infrathin" concept as important and central to modern life and art
  • Her silent but ever-present insistence that women are just as important as men, both as poets and as critics, and her related, unapologetic tracing of the influence of some women on some men rather than only the reverse
  • Her ability to discover unexpected sympathies between different poets' enterprises without ever homogenizing these enterprises; her insistence on difference even as she uncovers similarity
  • Her palpable excitement about her subjects, both poets and critics

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