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Groups, Coteries, Circles and Guilds

Modernist Aesthetics and the Utopian Lure of Community

Edited By Laura Scuriatti

In the first half of the twentieth century, artists, intellectuals, writers, thinkers and patrons in Europe and the United States created a large number of artistic communities, circles, groups and movements with the aim of providing alternatives to the increasingly conflictual political and intellectual climate; the works and artistic practices of many of these groups were marked by an ethos of collaboration, based on a collective understanding of artistic production, and on the nurturing and exercise of sociability and conviviality. Collaboration, sociability, friendship and collective artistic efforts represented the utopian aspects of the radical experiments carried out by avant-garde and modernist artists; they were also the counterparts of the period’s obsession with the notion of genius and the cult of the artist. This book offers studies of under-researched (and often consciously provincial) avant-garde and modernist groups and authors. Their progressive aims are here read as particular forms of utopia based on the ethics and aesthetics of community.

The essays in this volume analyse the significance (and failures) of literary coteries as spaces of aesthetic and political freedom. They explore the internationalist and interdisciplinary practices of the Porza Group, the abstrakten hannover and the anthroposophical group Aenigma; the utopian efforts of the artists’ communities at Dornach (Switzerland) and Farley Farm, in England; the political and aesthetic implications of collaborative practices of cultural mediation, criticism and translation within the Bloomsbury group, the «Young American Critics», and of single individuals in relation to networks and avant-garde coteries, such as Mina Loy, the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven and Djuna Barnes. The volume offers an evaluation of the roots and ethos of sociability in the Enlightenment, as the basis of modernist utopias of community; it also reflects on the problematic notion of individual authorship within artistic groups, as in the case of the early-modernist Finnish author Algot Untola, who created around forty fictitious author-names.

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Notes on Contributors


FRANCESCA CHIAPPINI obtained her PhD from the State University of Milan (Italy) in 2016. In her thesis, she investigated how rhetorical patterns of the visual and the verbal overlap, differ or co-operate in the work of four modernist women. Having completed most of her doctoral research at Cambridge University, her interests range mostly within the scope of modernist and contemporary women writers. She is currently working on a project at UCL, London, that explores the reception of the classical world in today’s women literature.

MARTINA CICERI is an independent scholar and a member of the Anglo-Russian Research Network. She completed a PhD with a thesis entitled ‘Anglo-Russian Modernitites: Intellectual Networks and Literary Transfers, 1880s-1910s’ at the University of Rome La Sapienza in 2017. Her research interests focus on Anglo-Russian cross-cultural exchanges and literary collaboration in late Victorian and Edwardian England. She has recently published on Virginia Woolf and Turgenev, on Ford Madox Ford’s Russian connections, as well as on the role of Russian émigré culture in twentieth-century Britain.

REINHOLD J. FÄTH is honorary professor at the University of Applied Sciences HKS Ottersberg (Germany), and independent curator of a substantial private collection of anthroposophical art. Part of his research focuses on the effects of visual arts and design on the human psyche from a spiritual point of view. He is currently investigating the concern of European avant-garde artists with the spiritual and occult currents of theosophy and anthroposophy; this investigation has led him to...

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