Glamour in Six Dimensions: Modernism and the Radiance of Form

Glamour in Six Dimensions: Modernism and the Radiance of Form

by Judith Brown
     
 

Glamour is an alluring but elusive concept. We most readily associate it with fashion, industrial design, and Hollywood of the Golden Age, and yet it also shaped the language and interests of high modernism. In Glamour in Six Dimensions Judith Brown looks at the historical and aesthetic roots of glamour in the early decades of the twentieth century, arguing that

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Overview

Glamour is an alluring but elusive concept. We most readily associate it with fashion, industrial design, and Hollywood of the Golden Age, and yet it also shaped the language and interests of high modernism. In Glamour in Six Dimensions Judith Brown looks at the historical and aesthetic roots of glamour in the early decades of the twentieth century, arguing that glamour is the defining aesthetic of modernism. In the clean lines of modernism she finds the ideal conditions for glamour-blankness, polish, impenetrability, and the suspicion of emptiness behind it all. Brown focuses on several cultural products that she argues helped to shape glamour's meanings: the most significant perfume of the twentieth century, Chanel No. 5; the idea of the Jazz Age and its ubiquitous cigarette; the celebrity photograph; the staging of primitivism; and the invention of a shimmering plastic called cellophane. Alongside these artifacts, she takes up the development, refinement, and analysis of glamour in Anglo-American poetry, film, fiction, and drama of the period. Glamour in 6 Dimensions thus asks its reader to see the proximity between the vernacular and elite cultures of modernism, and particularly how glamour was animated by artists working at the crossroads of the mundane and the extraordinary: Wallace Stevens, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Virginia Woolf, Josephine Baker, D. H. Lawrence, Gertrude Stein, Nella Larsen, and others.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In this very appealing, readable, and erudite book, Judith Brown shows that there is something cruel about glamour, and therefore something cruel about modernism, but she shows too that modernism's cruelty can allow us to appreciate the sensuality of modern culture. Instead of limiting glamour to a pernicious effect of commodification, as it is often understood by Frankfurt School critiques of the culture industry, Glamour in Six Dimensions approaches it as a spur to imagination, feeling, and invention. Brown's elegant readings convince us that glamour is modernism's invention—and its legacy."—Rebecca L. Walkowitz, Rutgers University

"Glamour in Six Dimensions is a fascinating and unforgettable book about a bewitchingly negative, even deathly, aesthetic. Judith Brown's provocative arguments about glamour's roots in modernist literary form and complicated status as both a sign of the degradation and persistence of aesthetic 'aura,' are sure to recharge the debate about modernist literature's relationship to mass culture. This book is a must-read for anyone working on modernism and twentieth-century aesthetics."—Sianne Ngai, UCLA

"Glamour in Six Dimensions is fabulous-smart, original, and fun to read all at once, as knowledgeable and authoritative as is it is elegant and charming. It has a place on my list of great books that fundamentally redefine modernist culture."—Jesse Matz, Kenyon College

"Weaving her neat hexagonal spiderweb, Judith Brown exhibits scintillating jewels caught in a series of dialectical images. She throws fresh light on canonical modernist writers: Chanel No. 5 next to Wallace Stevens's abstraction and Eliot's impersonality; celebrity photographs in Fitzgerald and Woolf; cigarette publicity for the jazz age; translucent plastic and shimmering cellophane wrapping Larsen, Stein, and Barnes. No longer striving for the great acorn of light or the gemlike flame of an earlier generation, Brown's modernism sparkles and shimmers on flat surfaces like glossy photographic paper. The vanishing aura of modernity still glitters through modernist glamour, now quasi-eternal: glamour toujours!"—Jean-Michel Rabaté, University of Pennsylvania

"This sophisticated, informed, and visually stunning book makes a significant and original contribution to the New Modernist Studies. Judith Brown's premise that glamour inheres in the very problem of modernist form is entirely original and manages to sustain a line of argument extending from Greta Garbo to Conrad to cellophane. Glamour in Six Dimensions is marked by Brown's sheer innovative genius."—Jane Garrity, University of Colorado

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801447792
Publisher:
Cornell University Press
Publication date:
04/16/2009
Pages:
216
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

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