What would it mean to be avant-garde today? Arguing against the notion that the avant-garde is dead or confined to historically "failed" movements, this book offers a more dynamic and inclusive theory of avant-gardes that accounts for how they work in our present. Innovative in approach, Provisional Avant-Gardes focuses on the medium of the little magazine—from early Dada experiments to feminist, queer, and digital publishing networks—to understand avant-gardes as provisional and heterogeneous communities. Paying particular attention to neglected women writers, artists, and editors alongside more canonical figures, it shows how the study of little magazines can change our views of literary and art history while shedding new light on individual careers. By focusing on the avant-garde's publishing history and group dynamics, Sophie Seita also demonstrates a new methodology for writing about avant-garde practice across time, one that is applicable to other artistic and non-artistic communities and that speaks to contemporary practitioners as much as scholars. In the process, she addresses fundamental questions about the intersections of aesthetic form and politics and about what we consider to be literature and art.
About the author
Sophie Seita is a writer, artist, translator, and Assistant Professor at Boston University.
"Investigating modernist and contemporary American little magazine communities, Seita persuasively challenges conventional notions of the avant-garde as oppositional, militant, and closed. Her deeply informed readings of these periodicals and her astute theorizing complicate those narratives through a richly textured assessment of the form's importance to avant-garde poetics."
—Linda A. Kinnahan, Duquesne University
"Sophie Seita's marvelously detailed examination of avant-garde and contemporary little magazines lays bare the infrastructures of innovative poetry. Her case studies are as exemplary as they are illuminating."
—Charles Bernstein, author of Pitch of Poetry
"In this extraordinary book, Sophie Seita has mapped the postwar poetry avant-garde with all its complexities and contradictions. It's extraordinarily well laid out and true to the experiences of those of us who found a space there. As she recounts it, genres blend and schools contend as needed, and the result is a world of poets and artists arguing with the inherited past and drawing from a newly awakened past and present. I remain in awe at what she has accomplished: it's closer to the truth of our times than I would ever have expected."
—Jerome Rothenberg, author of Eye of Witness
"Seita challenges the notion that there exists a formula for what can be called avant-garde. Instead, she presents the category as fluid, broad-minded, and sometimes contradictory. Provisional Avant-Gardes is important as a study of the impact of little magazines on art, literature, and politics, on their changing aesthetics, and on how print communities are created, then and now."––Deepa Bhasthi, Hyperallergic
"A much-needed study of US-based little magazines between the 1910s and 2010s.[Provisional Avant-Gardes is] an aspirational appeal for a practice of generous and capacious criticism, offering up the book as a model, and I am swayed to work in its orbit."
—Stephanie Anderson, Critical Inquiry
"A brilliant interpreter of experimental forms, Seita makes you want to get your hands on the magazines in order to imaginatively join the avant-garde communities they represent....Seita has a knack for selecting and illuminating avant-garde texts, exposing the serious implications of linguistic play, and transforming a baffling experiment into an intelligible, engaging commentary on contemporary culture."
—Suzanne W. Churchill, Journal of Modern Periodical Studies