James Reath (UCL) - 2018-19 Students

Anexact Cultures

Modernism—to borrow a line from Finnegans Wake (1939)—is a “riot of blots and blurs and bars and balls and hoops and wriggles and juxtaposed jottings linked by spurts of speed”. A good deal of it, we might suppose, is “anexact” or as Edmund Husserl says in Ideas I (1913), “essentially and not accidentally inexact”. Drawing on a wide-range of archival, genetic and theoretical research, Anexact Cultures conducts the first genealogy of the concept of the anexact in twentieth century philosophy. From here, the anexact is recapitulated as a polythetic means of organising the plurality of “weak modernisms” that have come to the fore in the wake of “new modernist studies”. Across five chapters—on doodles and inkblots; iridescent colours and the noise of becoming; the erratic cultural life of precision; the mesomorphic imagination of protoplasm; and the avant-garde aesthetics of synthetic gunk—Anexact Cultures foregrounds modernism as a constellation of minor aesthetic categories, weak feelings, and essentially inexact formalisms. Novel theories of the “groovy”, the “pixillated”, the “icky,” the “plasmodial” and more emerge as the sovereign formalisms maintaining the “specifically Western heaven” of “noble exactitude” that Wyndham Lewis proselytises positively dissolves. Expanding the temporal and conceptual core of modernism to include the long mid-century (c.1922-1972), Anexact Cultures brings a range of understudied post-war artists and writers—like Cy Twombly, Christine Brooke-Rose, Harry Mathews, Ann Quin, Lynda Benglis, and Marguerite Young—into dialogue with more established modernists like James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Barbara Hepworth, and Samuel Beckett.

Primary supervisor: Dr Julia Jordan, UCL
Secondary supervisor: Dennis Duncan, UCL

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