The Modernist Review #31: Visual Cultures

1 July 2021

In Jean Rhys’s 1927 short story, ‘Mannequin’, we open to the scene of Anna trying to find her way to the lunch room, dressed in the ‘chemise-like garment of the mannequin off duty’.[1] On the cusp between a state of dress and undress, between human individuality and thingness, clocked-on objectification and clocked-off satiation of hunger, Anna and the other mannequins represent a crossroads of modernist preoccupations with visual culture. Rhys traverses the bridge between mannequin as human model and mannequin as static window-dressing with Parisian grace, grappling with the tension between stillness and movement that embodies the ways of seeing and being seen in modernist artforms. In this Benjaminian age of mechanical reproduction, where does the agency lie in visual forms of representation? Continue reading “The Modernist Review #31: Visual Cultures”

What Will They Keep of Me, and What Will Be Waste: Walter Benjamin and The Stomach of Modernism

2 October 2020

Alessandra Occhiolini, The Graduate Center (CUNY)

What is the character of the modernist stomach, and how does it digest history? Unlike its hyper-functional nineteenth-century predecessor, the stomach of the twentieth century is metaphorically retentive, denatured into retention and distension by the virus that is violence.[1]The work of Walter Benjamin is a particularly clear example of a modernist methodology of historical retention and disorder: Arcades Project (1927-1940) does not pretend to know that the subject can parse the commodity profusion of the past and present that accumulates into history; that the individual is capable of digesting what is useful in a prompt or straightforward manner.[2]Instead, the reading experience is one in which we are forced to retain all without knowing what we will keep of the catalog before us, or if it all is in fact made to waste. Continue reading “What Will They Keep of Me, and What Will Be Waste: Walter Benjamin and The Stomach of Modernism”

Interiors of (Un)use


Meindert Peters, New College, Oxford

How is your interior treating you? Is it helping you in your tasks, or being a tad recalcitrant? Is everything just where you would like it – however messy you might like it – or is everything asking for attention, standing in your way? Right now, we are all more or less stuck at a home amongst stuff. Whether you just Marie Kondo’d your apartment or are a hoarder; whether the cleaner still comes twice a week, or your kitchen bears the traces of what you ate last week: stuff is there. If you are lucky, the stuff is yours, familiar, and comforting; if you are unlucky you live with someone else’s stuff, design choices, or lack thereof. Continue reading “Interiors of (Un)use”

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