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The Modernist Cult of Ugliness

Aesthetic and Gender Politics

Authors: Higgins, L.

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  • ISBN 978-0-312-24037-0
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About this book

'Cult of Ugliness', Ezra Pound's phrase, powerfully summarizes the ways in which modernists such as Pound, T.S. Eliot, Wyndham Lewis, and T.E. Hulme - the self styled 'Men of 1914' - responded to the 'horrid or sordid or disgusting' conditions of modernity by radically changing aesthetic theory and literary practices. Only the representation of 'ugliness', they protested, would produce the new, truly 'beautiful' work of art. Claiming membership in a cult, however playfully, was a crucial means of group and self-representation and promotion, a defense against personal, socio-economic, and artistic marginalization. Strategically, they dissociated the Beautiful from its traditional, troubling embodiment in female beauty, and from its more recent association with Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde. In effect, the deliberate cultivation of ugliness provided the means to displace the misogyny and homophobia which governed individual and artistic responses and utterances. This feminist argument takes in texts such as John Ruskin's foundational art criticism, Eliot's uncollected literary journalism, Lewis's pro-fascism pamphlets of the 1930s, and the city poetry of Pound, Conrad Aiken, and Langston Hughes. Analyses of Whistler's paintings and the poetry of W.B. Yeats demonstrate that even those who claimed to be the most vigorous champions of Beauty were committed to aesthetic practices that disempowered female figures in order to articulate new truths of male artistic mastery.

About the authors

LESLEY HIGGINS is an Associate Professor of English at York University, Toronto, Canada.

Reviews

'...Informed, scholarly work...it has an attractive interdisciplinarity...there is a freshness to the focus.' - Bonnie Kine Scott, University of Delaware.


Buy this book

Hardcover $139.99
price for USA
  • ISBN 978-0-312-24037-0
  • Free shipping for individuals worldwide
  • Institutional customers should get in touch with their account manager
  • Covid-19 shipping restrictions
  • Usually ready to be dispatched within 3 to 5 business days, if in stock

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Bibliographic Information

Bibliographic Information
Book Title
The Modernist Cult of Ugliness
Book Subtitle
Aesthetic and Gender Politics
Authors
Copyright
2002
Publisher
Palgrave Macmillan US
Copyright Holder
Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Nature America Inc.
Hardcover ISBN
978-0-312-24037-0
Edition Number
1
Number of Pages
XVII, 312
Topics