Fascism, modernism, and the historical avant-garde : theories and praxis / by Andrew Reginald Hewitt.
Whilst it has long been assumed that the artists and writers of the Avant Garde were politically inclined to the left, recent studies have stressed the interplay of right-wing politics and the Avant Garde. This study examines the relationship of "progressive" cultural phenomena and "reactionary" political ideologies in the works of Hanns Johst and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. The study of Johst is based on his dramatic and fictional writings and on theoretical writings from expressionist journals. The study of Marinetti concentrates largely on his manifestoes. The first chapter examines theories of Modernism and the Avant Garde and the genesis of the Avant Garde in the nineteenth century within the terms outlined by Peter Burger's Theory of the Avant-Garde and stresses the Avant Garde's move beyond the Enlightenment notions of progress which underlie Modernism. Working with Benjamin's notion of the "aestheticisation of political life" the dissertation questions the isolation of aesthetic and political discourses which this model implies. A second school of thought which sees in Fascism the result of a process of rationalisation is exemplified by Horkheimer and Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment, and a third interpretive model of "refeudalisation of the public sphere" is developed from Jurgen Habermas's Strukturwandel der Offentlichkeit. The dissertation stresses the problem of periodisation caused by the Avant Garde's rejection of the over-arching narrative of History and seeks to problematise the assumption that Fascist Modernism was necessarily patriarchal or geared toward monopoly capitalism. Instead, Fascist Modernism is examined in terms of the "objective non-synchronicities" contained within the bourgeois public sphere. In the final chapter, the opposition of Modernism and Avant Garde is reexamined as the basis for an understanding of Postmodernism and Fascist Modernism is seen as replaying itself in many of the concerns which motivate Postmodernism's move beyond the "progressive" temporality of Modernism.
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