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Tendentious modernism: Karel Teige's path to functionalism

Zusi, P; (2008) Tendentious modernism: Karel Teige's path to functionalism. Slavic Review , 67 (4) 821 - 839.

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Abstract

The category of tendentiousness-with its dogmatic, didactic, and aesthetically conservative inclinations-seems inherently opposed to the logic of modernism, which emphasized the aesthetic moment of formal innovation. While many modernists argued for the compatibility between aesthetic and political revolution, they invariably met the skepticism of those demanding a clear, unambiguously expressed political message from art. But was this conceptual divide unbridgeable? In this article, Peter Zusi explores this question through the case of the Czech theorist of the interwar avant-garde, Karel Teige. Teige exemplifies how the early Czech avant-garde adopted such terms as function and popular character (lidovost) from nineteenth-century Czech discourse, where they had served to celebrate the tendentious applicability of cultural artifacts to a political movement of emancipation. For Teige, however, these terms quickly shifted from accentuating to critiquing political tendentiousness. Teige's shift, Zusi argues, does not represent the trace of cultural belatedness or conceptual confusion as much as it reveals the flexibility of conceptual oppositions too often conceived as static.

Type:Article
Title:Tendentious modernism: Karel Teige's path to functionalism
UCL classification:UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > SSEES

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