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Volume 4 (Summer 2009)


BAUDELAIRE’S “DARK ZONE”: THE POÈME EN PROSE AS SOCIAL HIEROGLYPH; OR THE BEGINNING AND THE END OF COMMODITY AESTHETICS, PP. 1-23

Rob Halpern

Lyric poetry collides with the prose of history in Baudelaire's Petits poèmes en prose (1869), one of modernité's inaugural aesthetic projects. While the "prose poem" persists today with its own canons, anthologies, and journals, Baudelaire's poème en prose remains irreducible to the genre it is typically said to have originated. This essay makes a case for the generic singularity of Baudelaire's poème en prose by way of Paul de Man and Theodor Adorno, whose oblique references to Baudelaire's innovation are rich in unexamined implications, implications which illuminate the work of both theorists as much as they help us to understand the stakes of Baudelaire’s prosaic experiment. The essay goes on to argue that modern lyric's rarefied aim for an autonomy beyond language's referential function persists critically, albeit paradoxically, in the seeming transparency of the Petits poèmes en prose, where poem and commodity collapse in an internal identification, while maintaining the distinctions of external disparities.

Rob Halpern is Visiting Faculty at the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, San Francisco Art Institute.

Keywords: Baudelaire, commodity, use, allegory, prose poem, fragment, Adorno, de Man


ACCESSORIZING CLARISSA: HOW VIRGINIA WOOLF CHANGES THE CLOTHES AND THE CHARACTER OF HER LADY OF FASHION, PP. 24-47

Mark Gaipa

The period following the first world war in England saw dramatic changes in women's clothing: the manufacturing of quality ready-made clothing brought fashion to the masses, and modern fashions helped liberate women with simpler, lighter, and more youthful designs. These changes, I argue, have great consequence for Virginia Woolf's lady of fashion, Clarissa Dalloway. In her story "Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street" (1922), Woolf produces an ultimately satirical portrait of Clarissa, who remains insulated, by class privilege and fashion sensibility, from the working world about her; but when Woolf rewrites her story as a novel (1925), Clarissa comes to feel deeply for her lower-class counterparts. The change reflects Woolf's modernist technique, which strips away Clarissa's material insulation. But Woolf's dematerialized modernism in turn echoes contemporary women's fashions, which likewise were revolting against heavy materials, exploring youthful looseness, and even allowing ladies and workers to become fashion doubles.

Mark Gaipa is Project Manager on the Modernist Journals Project, Department of Modern Culture and Media, Brown University.

Keywords: modernism, materialism, bespoke tailoring, ready-to-wear clothing, Co-operative Movement


A DIFFERENT WAR LANDSCAPE: LEE MILLER’S WAR PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE ETHICS OF SEEING, PP. 48-66

Lorraine Sim

This essay examines the war photography of Lee Miller in terms of the ways it negotiates ethical challenges integral to the visual documentation of war, and the means by which her photography achieves what Susan Sontag terms an “ethics of seeing” (On Photography). In often eschewing, or figuring in unconventional ways, the horrors of war and directing the viewer’s attention to typically unprivileged scenes and moments, I argue that the moral tone and sensibility of Miller’s war photography is a function of her complex engagement with ideas, and the subject matter of, the ordinary and everyday. The essay focuses on two bodies of work: Miller’s photographs of London during the Blitz which were published in Britain and America in 1941 in the book Grim Glory: Pictures of Britain Under Fire, and some of the photographs she took on the Continent when working as a U.S. accredited war correspondent for British Vogue in 1944 and 1945.

Lorraine Sim is Lecturer in Literature and Film at the University of Ballarat, Australia.

Keywords: Lee Miller, photography, violence, everyday, Surrealism


“THE STRIVING”: ELIOT’S DIFFICULT ETHICS, PP. 67-83

Jason M. Coats

Responding to the new modernist studies’ attempts to interrogate the boundaries between high and low cultural artifacts, this essay historicizes T. S. Eliot’s cultural prose, including his Criterion commentaries and longer works, to argue for his interventionism. Although recent studies continue Raymond Williams’s assessment in Culture and Society that the impossible implementation of Eliot’s organicist cultural project speaks to his lack of systematic coherence, his emphasis on ethical rectitude over direct action does not necessarily indicate diffidence in his religious goals. Instead, the efficacy Eliot discovered within uncomfortable and difficult intellectual states is related to his cultural project, which banks its success on his prose’s structural and thematic resemblance to religious mystery. Eliot’s ethical priorities render his writings from protestations into transformative and conversional vehicles, providing the non-violent vehicle for the Christian Society he favors.

Jason M. Coats is Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Virginia.

Keywords: T. S. Eliot, Criterion, culture, Christian Society, ethics


MINOTAUR IN MANHATTAN: NICOLAS CALAS AND THE FORTUNES OF SURREALISM, PP. 84-102

Vassiliki Kolocotroni

Nicolas Calas is at once a major and a minor figure: to the Greek observer, a bright star in the constellation of home-grown but fugitive Surrealist poets, with a decidedly international outlook, doyen of the Trotskyist left and prodigal son of the cultural diaspora; to the student of the twentieth-century avant gardes, Calas is a name from the archive, a cameo act, a distinctive figure in the ‘the last snapshot of the European intelligentsia’, as Walter Benjamin termed Surrealism. It is from the latter angle that this essay considers Calas, following his brief ascendancy as spokesperson for the ‘School of Paris’ in 1940s New York, as interlocutor of artists and poets such as William Carlos Williams, and proposes him as a representative of the heterogeneous, fundamentally foreign sensibility of radical modernism.

Dr Vassiliki Kolocotroni is Senior Lecturer in the Department of English Literature at the University of Glasgow.

Keywords: Calas, William Carlos Williams, Modernism, Surrealism