The Wallflower Avant-Garde: Modernism, Sexuality, and Queer Ekphrasis

ISBN : 9780190202651

Brian Glavey
232 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Dec 2015
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The Wallflower Avant-Garde argues for the importance of a strain of modernist formalism based in ekphrasis, the literary imitation of the visual arts. Often associated with a conservative aesthetic of wholeness, permanence, and autonomy, ekphrastic writing also involves excess, failure, and mimesis, conjuring an aesthetic sense of closure and unity out of impossible imitations. This choreography of imitation and autonomy resonates with many of the foundational insights of queer theory: the way it situates identity as an effect of performativity, artifice, and mimesis. Unlike many queer theorists, however, this book insists that we value both the imitations and the aspirations that guide them, underlining not only the illusoriness of identity but also its allure. This more capacious formalism allows aspects of modernists aesthetic that have seemed regressive or repressive to be read as generative forms of stasis, quiet, reserve, shyness, and so on.


1 Gertrude Stein's Eye Lessons: Portraits and Pedagogy
2 The Ekphrastic Vice: Djuna Barnes's Spatial Form
3 Squandering Your Potential with Richard Bruce Nugent
4 Frank O'Hara Nude with Boots
5 The Wallflower Avant-Garde: John Ashbery's Shyness, or, Spacing Out with Art
Works Cited

About the author: 

Brian Glavey is Assistant Professor of English at the University of South Carolina.

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