Edited by Noëlle Cuny and Xavier Kalck
This book is a unique mix of cultural studies, literature, and visual arts applied to the discrete materiality of modernist objects. The simultaneously physical and ideological nature of objects has made them remarkably transparent to critical inquiries into their aesthetic, political, social, historical, or philosophical uses and meanings. This book identifies three processes at work in the apprehension of objects in poetry, prose, visual arts, culture, and crafts. If the first instinct of the modernist novelists and playwrights was to object to the realist tradition of objects as more or less stable inherited signifiers, they felt themselves equally free, we find, to take up humanity as their object. The human body, emotions, and mind were endowed with newfound plasticity, and it was now the artist’s and the writer’s task to fashion them after their own image, mobilizing and expanding them through objects seen as relational and connective catalysts for the modernist subject. Finally, the futile and decorative object is explored. From Baroness Elsa performing the commodity fetish to Jean Rhys performing the dissolution of the self in a frenzy of sartorial ornament, the agency of surface detail (misplaced, proliferating, or repurposed) is made manifest and given free play.