Singular examples : artistic politics and the neo-avant-garde


Singular examples : artistic politics and the neo-avant-garde

Tyrus Miller

(Avant-garde and modernism studies)

Northwestern University Press, 2009

  • : pbk

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Includes bibliographical references (p. 227-258) and index



This book focuses on the integral, interdisciplinary, and intermedial 'compositions' - verbal, visual, musical, theatrical, and cinematic - of the avant-gardes in the period following World War II. It also considers the artistic politics of these postwar avant-gardes and their works. The book's geographical span is primarily the United States, although in its more extended reach, it comprehends an international context of American postwar cultural hegemony throughout what was once referred to as 'the free world'.The works and the artists Miller takes up are those of the so-called neo - avant-garde with its inherent contradiction: an avant-garde whose newness is defined by its seeming reiteration of an earlier historical formation. Concentrating on the rhetorical, contextual, and performative characteristic of neo - avant-garde practice, including its relation to politics, Miller emphasizes the centrality of the example in this practice. John Cage, Jackson Mac Low, Gilbert Sorrentino, David Tudor, Stan Brakhage, and Samuel Beckett are among the artists whose exemplary works feature in ""Singular Examples"".Miller's key readings of these major artists of the period open up some of the most difficult texts of the neo - avant-garde even as they contribute to an eloquent argument for 'artistic politics'. Underlining the relation between material particulars and their thematic implications, between particular works and larger theoretical claims, between avant-garde aesthetics and formalist analysis, ""Singular Examples"" is exemplary in its own right, revealing the ultimate shape and direction of a postwar avant-garde contending with the historical predicaments of radical modernism.


  • Example 1: Introduction: Latter-Day Modernists
  • Part One: Out of the Cage
  • Example 2: Situation and Event: From The Pronouns to the Destinations of Sense
  • Example 3: Anarchy by Design: On Jackson Mac Low's Stanzas for Iris Lezak
  • Example 4: Pound's Cantos Lost and Found: Paragram and Authority in John Cage and Jackson Mac Low
  • Example 5: Merzing History: Kurt Schwitters, Jackson Mac Low, and the Aesthetics of Data Trash
  • Example 6: Transduced Objects and Spiritual Automata: Dimensions of Experience in David Tudor's Live Electronics
  • Part Two: Forays to the Dark Side
  • Example 7: Brakhage's Occasions: Figure, Subjectivity, and Avant-Garde Politics
  • Example 8: Fictional Truths: Sorrentino's Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things Between Image and Language
  • Example 9: Beckett's Political Technology: Expression, Confession, and Torture in the Later Drama
  • Part Three: Coda
  • Example 10: Didactic Drifts: One or More Conclusions Notes.

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