Modernist Cultural Studies
The vital terms of modernist cultural analysis and debate remain so because they constantly need to be reestablished. Cultural studies as it is defined and practiced at the beginning of the twenty-first century (at its best) takes “the new” as a task rather than a marvel, exploring the contemporaneity of culture as it is challenged and propelled by history and paying attention to the current, the ephemeral, and the marginal but always in relation to the equally modernist concept of a common culture. In combining this attention to how we live today with the modernist imperatives to, on the one hand, evaluate culture and, on the other, exhaustively document it, cultural studies is a perspective singularly attentive to the modernism that continues to define us. This chapter returns to what has so often been used as the exemplar, if not the definition, of modernism — namely, avant-garde art — and to the trouble with distinguishing between modernism and postmodernism.
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