The Theory of the Avant-Garde by Renato Poggioli ; Translated from the Italian by Gerald Fitzgerald
Cambridge, Ma. : The Belknap Press, 1968. First American Edition. Hardcover. 250 pages ; 23 cm. In original dust jacket with lite foxing to jacket verso. Lean to spine. Foxing to page edges. No markings to pages. Binding sound.
Renato Poggioli, eminent critic, translator, scholar, and teacher, was born in Florence; at the time of his death in 1963 he was Curt Reisinger Professor of Slavic and Comparative Literature at Harvard University. He is the author of scores of books, essays, and anthologies, including The Spirit of the Letter: Essays in European Literature; The Poets of Russia, 1890-1930; and The Phoenix and the Spider. First published in Italy in 1962, The Theory of the Avant-Garde has been praised by scholars and critics the world over, and is already a classic in its field. This edition marks the first, time that the book has appeared in English in its entirety.
In his introductory chapter, the author states his intention to "study avant-garde art as a historical concept, a center of tendencies and ideas . . . We shall here examine avant-garde art not under its species as art but through what it reveals, inside and outside of art itself, of a common psychological condition."
Poggioli develops a unified theory based on the belief that all aspects of modern culture have been affected by avant-garde art, from expressionism to pointillism to surrealism to dadaism. Historical parallels and modern examples from all the arts are used to show how the avant-garde is both symptom and cause of many major extra-aesthetic trends of our time. Alienation is a major theme of the book, as seen in psychological and social expressions as well as in such artistic movements as futurism, art for art's sake, and abstractionism.
In the course of his study, Poggioli explores the relationship between the avant-garde and our scientific civilization, between the avant-garde and popular taste, between the avant-garde and its various publics, and between the avant-garde and earlier stylistic traditions, notably romanticism, to show that the contemporary avant-garde is the "sole and authentic" one.
The last chapter adds final proofs to the author's argument that "avant-gardism has now become the typical chronic condition of contemporary art." The mistaken claim that the avant-garde is waning is due to the almost universal acceptance of its principles by even the most traditional and academic currents of modern art. The "avant-garde" is the art of our time, and it is here to stay.
The translator, Gerald Fitzgerald, studied under Professor Poggioli at Harvard and now teaches English at Boston University.
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