Front cover image for Total expansion of the letter : Avant-Garde art and language after Mallarmé

Total expansion of the letter : Avant-Garde art and language after Mallarmé

Trevor Stark (Author)
"The avant-garde owed much of its fascination and doubts about language to the poet Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) and his utopian call for a "total expansion of the letter." While Mallarmé aspired to remake language itself for a secular and democratic future, his poetry undermined the capacity of words to hold stable meaning in the present. The avant-gardes obsessed over his enigmatic poem, A Throw of the Dice Never Will Abolish Chance (1897), in which words exploded across the pages of the book in intertwining visual patterns that opened almost infinite possibilities for reading. Most significantly, Mallarmé's poetry and prose, Stark demonstrates, developed a radical philosophy of language that confronted the status of aesthetics under capitalism, the intertwinement of the arts, the temporality of reception, and the centrality of chance in both the word and the world. Total Expansion of the Letter tells the story of Mallarmé's gamble and its role in shaping the invention of avant-garde art. Toward this end, Stark crosses the borders between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; between art, poetry, dance, and music; and between art history, philosophy, and political economy. From foundational modernist artworks to forgotten fragments, this book grapples with topics including Picasso's nearly abstract works of 1910, which promised to unite painting and writing at the brink of illegibility; the "hope of an anonymous art" that the cubists pursued in newspaper collages and industrial colors; the collaborative invention of cacophonic "simultaneous poems" in Zurich Dada during the First World War; and Duchamp's artistic experimentations with chance, as they propelled him into the casino and the financial markets. Each of these cases, Total Expansion of the Letter establishes, turned on the avant-garde's transformative encounter with the vertiginous premise of Mallarmé's poetics: that the very medium of human communication and community, language, is perpetually in flux and haunted by emptiness"-- Provided by publisher
Print Book, English, 2020
The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2020
Criticism, interpretation, etc
xiv, 420 pages : illustrations (soem color) ; 24 cm
9780262043717, 0262043718
Introduction : In the interregnum : Mallarmé and the avant-gardes
The muted object : structure and writing in cubism
Anonymous art : impersonal language and industrial color
Simultaneity and totality : from Mallarmé's Livre to the dada score
Duchamp's idle chance : finance, gambling, and the right to laziness
Conclusion : Every revolution is a throw of the dice
"An October book"--Title verso