Irrational Modernism: A Neurasthenic History of New York Dada

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Overview

In Irrational Modernism, Amelia Jones gives us a history of New York Dada,
reinterpreted in relation to the life and works of Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. Jones enlarges our conception of New York Dada beyond the male avant-garde heroics of Marcel Duchamp, Man
Ray, and Francis Picabia to include the rebellious body of the Baroness. If they practiced Dada, she lived it, with her unorthodox personal life, wild assemblage objects, radical poetry and prose, and the flamboyant self-displays by which she became her own work of art. Through this reinterpretation,
Jones not only provides a revisionist history of an art movement but also suggests a new method of art history.Jones argues that the accepted idea of New York Dada as epitomized by Duchamp's readymades and their implicit cultural critique does not take into consideration the contradictions within the movement -- its misogyny, for example -- or the social turmoil of the period caused by industrialization, urbanization, and the upheaval of World War I and its aftermath, which coincided with the Baroness's time in New York (1913-1923). Baroness Elsa, whose appearances in Jones's narrative of New York Dada mirror her volcanic intrusions into the artistic circles of the time, can be seen to embody a new way to understand the history of avant-gardism -- one that embraces the irrational and marginal rather than promoting the canonical.Acknowledging her identification with the Baroness (as a "fellow neurasthenic"), and interrupting her own objective passages of art historical argument with what she describes in her introduction as "bursts of irrationality," Jones explores the interestedness of all art history, and proposes a new "immersive" understanding of history (reflecting the historian's own history) that parallels the irrational immersive trajectory of avant- gardism as practiced by Baroness Elsa.

The MIT Press

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Jones (history of art, Univ. of Manchester; Postmodernism and the En-Gendering of Marcel Duchamp) sets out to challenge in this fascinating new adventure. Adventure might seem an odd word choice for a serious, painstakingly researched project about the eccentric figure of the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven and the ways in which her gender, art, and life influenced and irritated New York Dada and its surrounding slew of writers, artists, and provocateurs in the early 20th century. Yet it is a fitting description for a caterwauling book that moves with an intellectual and emotional ferocity through topics as various as World War I, psychoanalysis, and feminism. The medical/metaphoric condition of neurasthenia acts on several levels-to describe the mental state of many artists at the time, including the baroness, as a way Modernism should be read (complicated and messy rather than rational), to describe the author's own condition (panic disorder) and thus personal investment, and to offer a new model for an immersive art history. This ambitious agenda is at times overstated, and art objects can be given short shrift in light of complex historical/theoretical revisionism, but Jones writes with a lucid and fervent voice (and culls an impressive range of others), making her argument exciting and compellingly fraught. Recommended for academic libraries.-Prudence Peiffer, Cambridge, MA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262600668
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Amelia Jones is Professor and Pilkington Chair in the History of Art at the University of
Manchester. She is the author of Irrational Modernism: A Neurasthenic History of New York
Dada
(MIT Press, 2004), Postmodernism and the En-Gendering of Marcel
Duchamp
and Body Art/Performing the Subject, among other books.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 The Baroness and Neurasthenic Art History 2
2 War/Equivocal Masculinities 34
3 Dysfunctional Machines/ Dysfunctional Subjects 116
4 The City/Wandering, Neurasthenic Subjects 168
5 "Death in Reverse": A Provisional Conclusion 234
Notes 240
Index 314
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