Manifestoes: Provocations of the Modern

Manifestoes: Provocations of the Modern

Manifestoes: Provocations of the Modern

Manifestoes: Provocations of the Modern

Synopsis

For more than three hundred years, manifestoes have defined the aims of radical groups, individuals, and parties while galvanizing revolutionary movements. As Janet Lyon shows, the manifesto is both a signal genre of political modernity and one of the defining forms of aesthetic modernism. Ranging from the pamphlet wars of seventeenth-century England to dyke and ACT-UP manifestoes of the 1990s, her extraordinarily accomplished book offers the first extended treatment of this influential form of discourse. Lyon demonstrates that the manifesto, usually perceived as the very model of rhetorical transparency, is in fact a complex, ideologically inflected genre-one that has helped to shape modern consciousness. Lyon explores the development of the genre during periods of profound historical crisis. The French Revolution generated broadsides that became templates for the texts of Chartism, the Commune, and late-nineteenth-century anarchism, while in the twentieth century the historical avant-garde embraced a revolutionary discourse that sought in the manifesto's polarizing polemics a means for disaggregating and publicizing radical artistic movements. More recently, in the manifestoes of the 1960s, the wretched of the earth called for either the full realization or the final rejection of the idea of the universal subject, paving the way for contemporary contestations of identity among second- and third-wave feminists and queer activists.

Excerpt

Since the mid-1960s, historical and literary scholarship has produced a striking number of studies of the avant-garde, as well as an unprecedented outpouring of histories and theories of feminism and women's writing. It is not too much to say that these intellectual projects have redefined our understanding of the modern political subject in the West, the citizen invoked and instantiated by "we the people" of modernity. Nevertheless, neither feminist histories nor contemporary narratives of the avant-garde have produced any sustained theoretical account of the manifestoes, revolutionary discourses, and public polemics that have defined -- and often written -- the history of Western modernity. My aim in this book is to offer a history and theory of the manifesto, and in so doing provide a comprehensive synthesis of the relations among revolutionary discourse, avant-garde aesthetics, feminist polemics, and the development of modern spheres of public contestation and debate.

Manifestoes: Provocations of the Modern is thus predicated on a comprehensive analysis of the manifesto, a ubiquitous yet undertheorized genre in the catalogue of modern discursive forms. In defining and enacting the identities of radical groups, individuals, and parties, the manifesto has galvanized revolutionary movements for the past three hundred years. From its appearance in England during the pamplet wars of the seventheenth century through its reappearances in Europe and the Americas during subsequent moments of profound historical crisis, the manifesto marks the point of impact where the idea of radical egalitarianism runs up against the entrenchment of an ancien régime. The rise of the manifesto is thus coeval with the emergence of the bourgeois and plebeian public . . .

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