Networks of Modernism: Toward a Theory of Cultural Production
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In “Patria Mia,” his 1913 series of essays in New Age magazine, Ezra Pound uses a metaphor for modernist cultural production that informs and structures this dissertation. “If it lie within your desire to promote the arts,” he writes, “you must not only subsidize the man with work still in him, but you must gather such dynamic particles together; you must set them where they will interact, and stimulate each other.” Salon hostess Mabel Dodge Luhan, in Movers and Shakers, announces a similar transformation in interpersonal relations: “Looking back on it now, it seems as though everywhere, in that year of 1913 . . . there were all sorts of new ways to communicate, as well as new communications.” I argue that these new forms of communication and interaction described by Pound and Dodge not only characterize the early twentieth century but also empower transnational experiments in literature, art, and politics that we now call “modernism.” Because of dramatic and wide-ranging developments in communications and travel technologies, modernists in the early years of the twentieth century cooperated and communicated regarding their experiments in new dynamic ways that make modernism an especially collaborative project. Before the Great War casts a dark shadow over the promises of modernity, editors, writers, artists, political radicals, hostesses, and intellectuals met in small private salons, published in alternative periodicals, and joined avant-garde movements. Reading these collaborative events illuminates the interactivity that crystallizes modernism as a cultural mode of production. To analyze collaborations in the development of modernism, I construct network graphs that visualize the webs of interaction I study. Rather than rely solely on diachronic readings of modernist texts, these visualizations provide a synchronic model for modernist cultural production as simultaneous connections, constituting a modernist totality. To analyze these network graphs, I apply concepts from network theory and sociology, two disciplines that begin in the modernist moment. Thus, this dissertation is both a theory of cultural production and an effect of that cultural production. The network is itself a modernist concept.