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Avant-Garde without Agonism

Telling it Slant (edited by Mark Wallace and Steven Marks) is amazing.

I am thrilled by the essay Avant-Garde without Agonism by Daniel Barbiero:

The emerging avant-garde as refusing to particpate in us vs.them.
Everything is useful.
A nonagonistic openess to the past.
Verwindung: to distort and to use to advantage.
The past as an enabling constraint.
To give up the notion of avant-garde as linear progression.
Instead of "make it new" it's now "make it anew".
The emerging avant-garde motivated by a genuine breakthrough.

The question hinted at but not addressed in the essay is: can the idea of an avant-garde exist without a linear progression? What does an advance guard advance toward?

And this relationship to the past sounds like "postmodernism." Are "we" still in postmodernism? Not post-post modernism?

By the way, how can we determine who is and is not "in" "postmodernism?"

The term postmodernism is very tricky. The term avant-garde is very tricky.

In fact, every term is very tricky.

The idea of a period style was made possible by the historical avant-garde.

So the critique I keep hearing from poets working more within the "mainstream literary tradition" is that "avant-garde poetry" is doing the same thing it did in the early 20th century. This is a critique of novelty. But the emerging avant-garde, at least from reading Mark Wallace and Daniel Barbiero, is not interested in novelty. At least not novelty in the same sense as the historical avant-garde.

A fad, a fashion ascribed to avant-garde poetry (poetics) is a nice twist since the concept of a fad, fashion is exactly what was revealed via avant-garde poetics.

The art for art sake allowed the emergence of an avant-garde to critique the institution(s) of art.

So in a very broad sense if the avant-garde is involved in a critique of the institution of art what happens when the instituion of art (or more specifically poetry) is itself a marginal institution?

Are avant-garde poetics an institution or a genre? Or both? Can an institution also be a genre?

What the hell is a genre?

What qualifies as an institution?


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Maurice Scully, The Basic Colours. Durham, UK: Pig Press, 1994.
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