The Arts and the Creation of Modernity
Katherine Giuffre


Contents and Abstracts
1 Symbolic Warfare in the Field of Culture
chapter abstract

The age of revolutions created and was created by a profound cultural change that went along with political, economic, and demographic changes in western Europe and North America. Cultural change undermined hegemonic processes at the level of signification. Putting Bourdieu's field theory into the context of this era highlights the conflictual nature of culture and the way in which outrage played a role in the transformation to modernity.

2 "A Morbid Love of the Coarse, Not to Say the Brutal": The Novels of the Brontë Sisters
chapter abstract

The initial outraged reaction by critics to the Brontë sisters' novels was a response to recognizing a new conception of women as thinking, passionate, and sexual beings. After an initial positive response, once critics became aware that the Brontës were women behind male-sounding pen names, they were highly critical of writing that depicted women's passion from a female point of view. Charlotte Brontë responded by trying to reposition the sisters are innocent and naïve, rather than as conscious artists.

3 "The Summit of Vulgarity": The Paintings of the Impressionists
chapter abstract

The work of the Impressionists caused outrage because they took art out of the exclusive purview of the aristocracy and the elite and brought it to a rising bourgeoisie audience, overturning notions of quality and taste as markers of social distinction. They engaged directly in what Bourdieu called "subversive strategies" in the field of art that resonated with the new world of conspicuous consumption by a rising urban middle class.

4 "An Eccentric, Dreamy, Half-Educated Recluse": The Poetry of Emily Dickinson
chapter abstract

Emily Dickinson's poetry and the story of her life, which were published posthumously, were preemptively edited before publication in an attempt to avoid the type of outrage her rule-breaking writing would incite. Her relationship with Susan Dickinson was erased from the record. The myth of the virginal recluse was manufactured in a futile attempt to mollify critics, who labeled her insane because she transgressed normative boundaries in her life and work.

5 "Delirious Cocksuckers": Le Sacre du printemps and the Ballets Russes
chapter abstract

The battle over Le Sacre played out not only in the press, but also face-to-face on the opening night when different factions in the audience turned on one another in the infamous "Riot at the Rite." The violent audience response was linked to homophobia, anti-Semitism, and changing class dynamics on the eve of World War I. At issue were accepted norms of masculinity, caught up in a welter of national insecurity and xenophobia in a rapidly globalizing world.

6 "Damnable, Hellish Filth from the Gutter of a Human Mind": James Joyce's Ulysses
chapter abstract

The battle over Ulysses was fought not only in the press, but also in courtrooms in the United States and England, where the definition of "obscenity" touched deep social and political divides. The issue of expertise was part of a struggle to decide in which field, art or morality, and by whom judgments about obscenity should be decided. These debates happened in the context of the Red Scare, Prohibition, and the rise of Nazism.

7 "No Theme, No Message, No Thought": Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God
chapter abstract

The battle over Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God played out in large part inside the African American literary community with prominent Black male authors attacking Hurston's work for its perceived burlesque of African American life and lack of overt political message. Its authenticity was seen as an attack on the image an oppressed group wanted to put forward of itself. Valorization of the work only came with the development of a new critical paradigm informed by Black feminism.

8 A Permanent Revolution
chapter abstract

In the social, economic, and political ferment of the 19th and early 20th centuries, six cultural productions caused outrage when they engaged with key points of uncertainty, tension, and transition in their societies. They disrupted hegemonic processes around issues of the shape of the social hierarchy, issues of identity, and issues of the legitimation of traditional morality. This had led to a state of permanent revolution in the cultural sphere, including the culture wars of the current era, an ongoing process that is the essence of modernity.