Daniel’s posting on Cunard’s NEGRO ANTHOLOGY

Winkiel’s reading of Nancy Cunard’s Negro: An Anthology suggests that the anthology is less concerned with race and more a “document of war against imperialism and capitalism” (Winkiel 50). Looking at some of the surrealist and communist pieces, I want to look at how Cunard’s use of “montage” and her politics of anti-capitalism create the potential to unite two separate movements to create a more disruptive, single movement. .

The gaps that Winkiel focuses on in the text, the non-hierarchical juxtaposition (513) are read not as a problem within the anthology but as a moment that strengthens the Transnational politics. Winkiel’s reading of the montage of the text suggests the possibility of the text creating the potential for a kind of strategic essentialism. By creating a movement unified through its difference. Such a reading allows a politics that fights against the destabilizing effects of slavery and its diaspora of Africans, but does so without risking the movement’s diversity which serves as the movement’s strength. A strength in diversity potentially makes a movement’s cohesion difficult, but Will Herberg’s “Marxism and the American Negro” suggests that class be one issue the movement can rally behind. Herberg’s Marxist reading of the position of the “American Negro” suggests that democracy will fail to produce a true liberating movement of race, and socialism is the best alternative for racial emancipation (Herberg, 134). It may be important to note preceding this article is a narrative interruption that reminds the reader of Nancy Cunard’s limited understanding of Marxism, and quotes her as saying she is more of an Anarchist. While Cunard’s communist influence may be more of a fashion statement, the communist influence by anti-imperialism makes it a necessary component to take her politics to the Transnational level. George Sadoul’s contribution of “Sambo Without Tears” makes this clear.

Sadoul’s article criticizes imperialist cartoons within French Bourgeoisie magazines published for children (yes, children, which makes the cartoons even more unsettling). Sadoul uses Lenin’s claim that the revolt of the proletariat is at one with the struggle of the “negro” (350-1), and his essay serves as an international counterpart to Herberg’s domestic, American politics. Sadoul uses the children cartoons to expose how the images project a savage, immoral, drunkard identity for the “negro” that justify colonial rule. He ends for a cry for workers across racial boundaries unite to connect their struggles.

The note that discusses Cunard’s preference for Anarchism over the dogmatic nature of Marxism suggests that these politics are guided by a more general anti-capitalism/imperialism that Wienkel supports. Wienkel’s discussion of the importance of montage suggests this notion, and what Cunard puts together is less a hierarchical, systematic critique of capitalism/imperialism, but a more de-centered and plural attack. Wienkel reads this move as “recontextualizing white avant-gardist and socialist rupture within an African and African-diasporic modernity”, and this makes me think of the surrealist manifesto within the anthology that attempts to redefine (France’s) colonial wars as civil wars. Bracketing the questions of internal/external that I think can be explored here through (trans)national politics, I think this creates an exciting possible connection between domestic and international politics.

Of course, the limits of Cunard’s politics are clearly exposed by the anthologies critics and its history. The anthology fails to remain historically significant, and Wienkel confirms its existence on the margins through her Walter Benjamin metaphor. Further, the romanticization and fetishaztion discussed in class continue to trouble the anthologies authenticity, but the anthologies ability to create a representation of a “negro” unity transcending nationality (and the racial author—all the pieces of the anthology read for this blog are written by Whites) creates a political possibility that counters the diasporic nature of black culture. The different racial “migrations” (as Helberg calls them, some word choice that may provide a critical distance by suggesting a sociologists perspective, but still rather troubling language) help repress a racial movements effectiveness and power. Cunard’s transnational politics as Wienkel calls them, though still very problematic, offer a good starting point to understanding how social movements can strategically be made up of difference. Instead of viewing such differences as a problem, Wienkel views them as potential symptoms rather than flaws (508). I think that such a reading of the gaps when coupled with the Marxist critiques of class in the anthology offer the potential for a political reading that helps cope with the anthologies problematic cosmopolitanism.


Week 7 blogs: Cunard’s NEGRO ANTHOLOGY

All undergrads are to post blogs for this week. In your blog post, identify one or two claims from the assigned essay by Laura Winkiel that you find particularly intriguing, surprising, complicated, or otherwise worthy of further discussion. Use one (or more) of the readings you selected from Cunard’s Negro: An Anthology to engage with, challenge, or further develop Winkiel’s argument. In other words, your goal is to explore an argument from the secondary resource (Winkiel) by returning to the primary source (Cunard), adding depth to our understanding of both.

Nancy Cunard
Man Ray, photograph of Nancy Cunard (1926). Courtesy of http://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/265168 .

You may, if you like, continue to build on the issues we addressed in class, e.g. the anthology as modernist form; Cunard’s “romanticizing” of Africa/African-Americans, and/vs. her self-awareness of her own anthropological perspective; etc. However, your main focus should be on engaging with a claim made in Winkiel’s article.

Due date: Friday, May 15, 11:59 p.m. 700-800 words or so. Please label your posting “Blog 5.”

Grad bloggy day

There are no blogs due for undergrads today–you’re working on your midterms.

Our grad students will be getting involved by posting either about the postcolonial readings they did (Bhabha, Spivak), or about their final paper projects. I encourage undergrad students to keep up on what their graduate classmates are up to.

We’ll resume regular undergrad blogging next week, with Cunard’s Negro Anthology. I’m hoping that Joshua’s presentation on Michael North’s Dialect of Modernism will help us engage with the tricky issues of imitation, appropriation, mask and dialect, authenticity and abstraction, etc., and how these are/aren’t core elements of modernist writing.

Bon courage!

Halftime/Make-ups – for May 1

Nice job on the blogs thus far — we’re almost halfway there!

For Friday, May 1, every student should reply to a posting from last week (300-400 words). Please use specific textual details to advance, develop, or complicate claims made in the original posting. Feel free also to build any of this week’s presentation materials into your reply.

After this reply is done, every student should have completed two posts and two replies. There will be no blogs due May 8.

Make-up blogs:
As the syllabus says, each student is permitted to make up one blog or one reply (not both) by the end of the quarter (June 5). (If you have to choose between making up a reply or making up a blog post, please do the latter.)

I would prefer students to stick to the rivers and the lakes that they’re used to the blog topics for which they were originally scheduled (i.e. if you missed your April 24 posting, please do your make-up on one of the April 24 topics).

You may do this posting any time between now and the end of the quarter. Please tag your posting “Make-Up Blog,” and please make sure you sign your name (first name and last initial is fine).

Blogs due April 24 – Passage to India

This week’s blog prompts have been written by the M.A. students in the class. BE GRATEFUL. (We’re still waiting on a few–we’ll have them by the end of the day on Wednesday.)

Blog Group 1 (A-H): reply to a blog entry from last week. 300-400 words.

Blog Group 2 (I-N): You have the week off; I encourage you to keep up with what others have written.

Blog Group 3 (O-Z): 700-800-word posts due Friday, April 24, by 11:59 p.m. Please tag your post “Blog 4.”

Please remember to sign your name (at least first name and last initial) so that it’s clear who’s posted what. And never miss an opportunity to close-read language.

Prompts: Feel free to bring in excerpts from previous texts, or from the Butler book, to illuminate whatever aspects of Forster’s novel you wish to discuss. And be sure to cite specific examples from the novel. The more you can analyze language, the better off you’ll be.

  1. How does Forster’s style, which seems to gloss the story as it tells it, adhere to, alter or reject one or two notions of modernist aesthetic we’ve encountered in this course so far (mediation, modernist as cultural diagnostician, the abstracting of art, fragmentation, noise, etc.)?
  2. How might or mightn’t we consider Adela a character on whom the imperial ideology in Chandrapore is inscribed?
  3. In Chapter 14 of A Passage to India the narrator remarks, “Like most Orientals, Aziz overrated hospitality, mistaking it for intimacy, and not seeing that it is tainted with the sense of possession” (142). Can you point to other moments in the text where the narrator seems to be asserting its opinion? Is our narrator consistent? Reliable? Unbiased? Western? How, would you argue, do the narrator’s interjections shape our experiences of the characters in this novel?
  4. After Mrs. Moore leaves the caves, she thinks about how the echo in caves upset her and that “Prof. Godbole had never mentioned an echo; it never impressed him, perhaps” (147). Mrs. Moore is not the only one who learns of the echoes as they happen. In the detailed description of the caves in chapter 12, there is no mention of the echoes that are central to the characters’ experience in the caves. What do you make of this omission, of letting the reader experience the echoes for the first time alongside the characters? What significance do echoes hold in the first section of novel, and does the meaning change once they reach the caves?
  5. Close-read the significance of the imagery in the opening chapter of the “Caves” section.  How do these images correlate with the subsequent action?
  6. Discuss specific instances that presage Aziz’s arrest.  What does the disconnect between Indian and English cultures reveal about these moments?
  7. “Caves” highlights the binary of “dull” versus “interesting” life experience at least twice (“the visitor returns to Chandrapore uncertain whether he has had an interesting experience or a dull one or any experience at all” [137];  “most of life is so dull that there is nothing to be said about it” [146]). The traveling party’s encounter with the tree stump/snake (155) shows us that Aziz would rather scare his guests with an interesting untruth (i.e., it’s a snake) rather than calm them with the dull truth (i.e., it’s a stump). Considering Aziz’s obsession with being a perfect host, why is his choice here significant and how does it shed light on the book’s theme of intercultural intelligibility?
  8. Inside the caves, all sound is distilled into a single echoing “boum” (163) that instigates a panic attack for Mrs. Moore.  Once she emerges from the cave, this “terrifying echo” (162) grows more articulate:  “Coming at a moment when she chanced to be fatigued, [the echo] had managed to murmur, ‘Pathos, piety, courage – they exist, but are identical…Everything exists, nothing has value’” (165). What enables Mrs. Moore – and no one else – to decipher the echo’s muddled message?

Blog posts due 4.17

Group 1 (A-H): you have the week off, but I encourage you to keep up on what others are doing.

Group 2 (I-N): write a blog (700-800 words), due Friday 4/17, 11:59 p.m. Please tag your posting “Blog 3.”

Group 3 (O-Z): by Friday, 4/17, 11:59 p.m., reply (300 words) to blogs from last week. Unless I’m mistaken, only one person wrote a blog last week, so he’s going to get a lot of responses.


(1) Use one of the “key terms” on the handout from Kelsey’s graduate presentation last week, and explore its applicability to one of the Pisan Cantos.

(2) Engage with one of the critical excerpts on Canto 81 found here. Use specific textual references from C81 to develop the original critic’s conclusions; you may also refer to other Cantos and draw connections back to C81.

(3) With specific reference to the text, analyze how Pound develops one of the following themes, images, ideas, or motifs in one or two of the Pisan Cantos. Keep your focus as tight and narrow as possible so that you can explore the motif in depth.

  • counterpoint
  • periplum/voyage
  • ritual/ceremony/dance
  • noise (cf. Canto 83 – “noise in the chimney”)
  • printing/imprinting/inscription/carving (etc.)
  • Pound’s African-American DTC comrades
  • money
  • usury
  • ants/wasps/insects/spiders
  • precision
  • mask

Blog instructions and prompts for 10 April 2015.

This week we begin rotating our blog posts. This week’s blogs are due Friday, 4/10, by 11:59 p.m.

Blog Group 1: if your last name begins with A through H (inclusive), you are hereafter in “Blog Group 1,” and you have a blog post due this Friday by 11:59 p.m.. Prompts are below. 700+ words.

Blog Group 2: last names I through N. This week, by 23:59 on Friday, you need to read and reply to a blog posting from last week. You can find all of last week’s postings by clicking on the link marked “Week 1 blogs.”

Pick a blog post you find particularly interesting, thought-provoking, question-raising, etc., and probe it further. Again, your goal is not to praise or to bury the original posting, but to engage with its ideas and extend them further. Ideally, you could use materials from this week’s materials that allow you to reflect back on a posting from a previous week…but as long as you’re citing specific examples, you can approach this in many different ways. 300+ words.

Blog Group 3: O through Z. You have this week off. (You’ll have a reply due on 4/17.)

Prompts: As always, you’re welcome to remake or reinvent these prompts however you like, provided that you’re citing specific examples. Please tag your blogs “Blog 2.”

1. Based on your readings and listenings for this week, respond to and elaborate on the following passage from Emily Thompson’s book The Soundscape of Modernity:

To composers like Antheil and Varèse, the noises of the modern city inspired the creation of a new kind of music. When this music was performed in places like Carnegie Hall, audiences were challenged to test their ideas about the distinction between music and noise. Some–including critics like [Lawrence] Gilman and [Paul] Rosenfeld, as well as other perceptive listeners like [William Carlos] Williams–clearly developed a new way of listening, learning not only to celebrate the noise in music, but also to appreciate the music in noise. This was not, however, the only way to test the definition of noise. Acousticians and engineers were also redefining the meaning of sound, with new instruments of their own. When they took those tools out of the laboratory and put them to work in a world filled with sound, they, too, challenged listeners to listen in new ways. (144)

(If you’re super-curious, you can find Thompson’s book on reserve—or parts of it on Google Books).

2. Pound’s Testament de Villon is hardly a noise-music composition of the Amériques or Ballet Mécanique sort; indeed, after hearing those two pieces, Pound’s might sound rather tame. Yet there are many respects in which it still reflects artistic ideals that we might call “modernist”: for example, its settings of Francois Villon, the 15th-century French poet, represent a decisive stroke of classicism, and Antheil aided Pound’s composition of the piece. Analyze how Pound’s Testament de Villon reflects a modernist aesthetic, using Butler’s Very Short Introduction as well as Pound’s essays (“A Retrospect,” on Antheil) to buttress your analysis.

3. Perform a close reading of Russolo’s “Arts of Noise” manifesto. What case does he make for the new kinds of noise that could help remake music? Why, specifically, does he champion noise, either as an artistic material, or as a cultural/social phenomenon? (Here, if you’re curious, are what Russolo’s noisemakers–intonarumori–sound like.)

4. Antheil’s essay “My Ballet Mecanique,” briefly discussed in class, can be found on D2L (under “Course Content” –> “Optional/Recommended”). It’s short: read it and assess its claims in relation to the piece itself.

5. Watch Léger’s film Ballet Mécanique, which includes a reconstruction of Antheil’s score made to fit the film. As discussed in class, the film and music were composed separately, and so we need to be cautious about taking this video too literally. Still, speculate about the relationship between the images onscreen and the music. What’s going on in the film? How do the implications of the title apply to the images as well as to the music? What “themes” from the film can you abstract, and how do they compare or conflict with the music?

6. Why are player-pianos (“pianolas”) so important to Antheil’s Ballet? How do player-pianos work, what might they symbolize, and what might their inner workings tell us about the cultural resonances of Antheil’s piece? (There’s a lot of good recent scholarship on modernism’s player-pianos–let me know if you want to do more research.)

7. Choose your own adventure. (You might want to tackle Antheil’s essay on music and race, if you’re brave, or the relationship between Antheil’s music and jazz, or take up an issue from the scholarly presentation, or any materials from the PowerPoint that I didn’t get to.)