Breaking Glass to Save the Frame

Lisa Siraganian

in Modernism’s Other Work

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199796557
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932542 | DOI:
Breaking Glass to Save the Frame

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This chapter explores the polarity between spectator or readerly irrelevance on the one hand and bodily incorporation of the reader’s body on the other, to investigate writers and artists who articulate positions negotiating between these two poles. In particular, this chapter examines the paradoxical figure of William Carlos Williams, who understands collage as a way to productively complicate the notion of readerly irrelevance. The autonomous art object of Stein and Lewis finds its most serious early challenge in the Dada aesthetics of Marcel Duchamp and Mina Loy, who contest both the frame’s integrity and art’s removal from politics by insisting on the inseparability of art and life. Responding to Duchamp’s and Loy’s notions of framing, Williams’s Spring and All (1923) negotiates a shifting compromise between art that rejects the incorporation of the spectator’s world and art that insists upon it, while his less-known work, The Great American Novel (1923), implies that this new theory of framing facilitates specific forms of social progress that he hopes could preempt the state’s progressive goals.

Keywords: Williams, William Carlos; Duchamp, Marcel; Loy, Mina; Spring and All (1923); The Great American Novel (1923); framing; progressivism; Pound, Ezra; bodily incorporation; aesthetic autonomy

Chapter.  14188 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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