Cover image for Surveying the Avant-Garde: Questions on Modernism, Art, and the Americas in Transatlantic Magazines By Lori Cole

Surveying the Avant-Garde

Questions on Modernism, Art, and the Americas in Transatlantic Magazines

Lori Cole

COMING IN JUNE

$94.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-08091-8
Coming in June

256 pages
7" × 9.5"
20 b&w illustrations
2018

Refiguring Modernism

Surveying the Avant-Garde

Questions on Modernism, Art, and the Americas in Transatlantic Magazines

Lori Cole

“Turning the manifesto—the touchstone genre for avant-gardists in the twentieth century—on its head, Lori Cole’s provocative, innovative, and deeply researched book reveals the questionnaire to have been a constitutive genre of declaration-by-interrogation across the arts of the Americas. With this counterintuitive and superbly convincing study, Cole opens new pathways for scholars in multiple languages to pursue the politics and populaces that made modern aesthetics.”

 

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Surveying the Avant-Garde examines the art and literature of the Americas in the early twentieth century through the lens of the questionnaire, a genre as central as the manifesto to the history of the avant-garde.

Questions such as “How do you imagine Latin America?” and “What should American art be?” issued by avant-garde magazines such as Spain’s La Gaceta Literaria and Cuba’s Revista de Avance demonstrate how these publications, their contributors, and their readers all grappled with the concept of “America,” particularly in relationship to Europe. Engaging with this under-examined trove of primary source material, Lori Cole shows how “modernism” and the “avant-garde” were debated at the very moment of their development and consolidation. Unlike a manifesto whose signatories aligned with a single polemical text, the questionnaire produced a patchwork of responses, providing a composite portrait of a community. Cole’s analysis of select surveys demonstrates how the genre helped shape artists’ and writers’ understanding of themselves and their place in the world and yields remarkable insights into the history of the era as told by its protagonists—figures ranging from Gertrude Stein to Diego Rivera and Jorge Luis Borges, who were developing an increasingly expansive notion of American identity in their work and in print.

An original and compellingly crafted study, this book further reorients our understanding of modernism as transatlantic by demonstrating how the artists and writers of the period engaged in aesthetic debates that shaped and propelled print communities in Europe, the United States, and Latin America. Scholars, students, and enthusiasts of modernism and the avant-garde will welcome Cole’s field-advancing work.

“Turning the manifesto—the touchstone genre for avant-gardists in the twentieth century—on its head, Lori Cole’s provocative, innovative, and deeply researched book reveals the questionnaire to have been a constitutive genre of declaration-by-interrogation across the arts of the Americas. With this counterintuitive and superbly convincing study, Cole opens new pathways for scholars in multiple languages to pursue the politics and populaces that made modern aesthetics.”
“Lori Cole presents a new interpretation of modernism by examining the networks and circulation of ideas and images elaborated in transatlantic magazines. Using the questionnaire as a framework, her study destabilizes dominant narratives and reveals the numerous and often conflicting voices that contributed to and shaped notions of the avant-garde.”
“By approaching modernism through the very questions its protagonists were asking themselves, Cole destabilizes the terms of this history, in turn opening up vital new questions—and offering insightful, original answers—about the global character of the avant-garde. This fascinating and meticulously researched book reveals the questionnaire as a quintessential site for experimental art and literature with vast implications for how we understand the self-reflexive processes though which cultural meaning is produced and received.”
“An outstanding contribution to modernist studies in general, to discussions on global modernism in particular, and to periodical studies. The questionnaire in modernist magazines is brought forth as a genre of paramount importance for the self-perception of modernism, as it shaped public discussions about the relevance, scope, and limitations of the modernist project. Lori Cole skillfully brings together magazines across three continents and recreates a fascinating snapshot of the connections, networks, and circulation of ideas that were vital for the writers and artists of the period.”
“You’ve filled out a million of them, but have you ever really considered the questionnaire? Lori Cole has—and in Surveying the Avant-Garde she seats it beside the manifesto as a core genre of modernist self-portraiture and self-promotion. The result is a fascinating new take on a range of modernist print communities. What Cole has rejoined—the manifesto and the questionnaire, the bullhorn of avant-gardes and their fissured mirror—let no one put asunder.”

Lori Cole is a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Center for Experimental Humanities at New York University.