Museum medium: Transformational aesthetics in American modernism.

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Bibliographic Details
Author / Creator:Yale, Andrew Elon.
Description:254 p.
Format: E-Resource Dissertations
Local Note:School code: 0330.
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Other authors / contributors:University of Chicago.
Notes:Advisor: Bill Brown.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--The University of Chicago, Division of the Humanities, Department of English Language and Literature, 2015.
Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 76-08(E), Section: A.
Summary:This dissertation contends that the idea of the museum became a productive medium for transatlantic modernist artists. Modernism is notorious for its embrace of the new, but close attention to work at the margins of the movement reveals an unacknowledged debt to the pictorial and decorative arts of the nineteenth century, and especially the encyclopedic museum as an institution. I examine twentieth-century poetry, art, and collecting practices by Henry Mercer, Vachel Lindsay, Joseph Cornell, and Harry Smith that display profound ambivalence toward the revolutions of mass culture, in part by incorporating found objects, folk tales, and lyricism modern and ancient. The apparent eclecticism of these assemblage works was shadowed by a desire to construct vernacular systems of knowledge akin to those housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and other institutions shaped by Enlightenment ideals. The works I study take up the museum as built environment, concept, or metaphor, and in the process expand our view of its influence in the period. Museums are not only sites for pedagogy and consumption, but engines of cultural, visual, and knowledge production, guided by underlying theories of display. They therefore became useful models for theorizing new media such as cinema, and ideal vehicles for renewing neglected cultural histories. The reward for paying attention to the residue of the museum is an alternative history of transatlantic modernism, one that undertakes archaeological digs in deep time as well as times closer to the surface.