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|Title:||Fables of Regeneration: Modernism, Biopolitics, Reproduction|
|Department:||English and Cultural Studies|
|Keywords:||Other English Language and Literature;Other English Language and Literature|
|Abstract:||<p>This dissertation investigates a turn in the modernist period towards organicist and life-science frameworks to explain political conflicts. How is it, I ask, that organic form comes to be a leading aesthetic ideology in a period in which the reproduction of social relations was in crisis? In my introduction, I frame a historical argument that the remainder of the dissertation draws out in detail: modernism is best understood as a response to the failure of nineteenth-century liberalism's organization of social relations, and a politics of life in different guises—decadence, vitalism, organicism, and everyday life—is modernism's way of conceptualizing alternative modes of social reproduction under new, transnational conditions and pressures.</p> <p>In the first half of the dissertation, I outline how the historical avant-garde's revolutionary aim to merge art with everyday life presumes that life can offer a new foundation for social organization beyond liberalism’s institutional forms. Turning to the Futurists in Italy, I argue for a more complex understanding of how intertwined discourses of national organicism and a revolutionary vitalism resulted in their self-contradicting political program for anti-liberalist and, occasionally, anti-colonial revolution that frequently exceeded its own self-imposed national limits. The dissertation’s second half shows how modernism’s politics of life were eventually recuperated to a liberal consensus in the twentieth century, first in William James’s figure of a new social body traversed by overwhelming and destabilizing sensations, which required better systems of self-management, and which, I argue, anticipates the regulated national space of mid-century welfare state liberalism. Meanwhile, D. W. Griffith's compulsive return to scenes of rebirth in two films, <em>Birth of a Nation</em> (1915) and <em>Intolerance</em> (1916), expresses an ideology of imperial rebirth that rearticulates liberalism as the management of sensations and populations in America’s turn of the century, transnational moment.</p> <p>Focusing on two national contexts in which migration and imperialist expansion were transforming domestic politics, this study extends a recent turn towards transnational articulations of modernity, by reconsidering how the cultural forms emerging in these sites are marked by a biopolitical discourse that reimagines how social reproduction can take place.</p>|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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