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Michael North: "'Make It New' and the Endgame of Modernism"
Michael North is Distinguished Professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. The primary focus of his teaching and scholarship has been the Anglophone literature of the last hundred years, with particular concentration on race, politics, and the visual arts. He is the author of numerous books, including The Political Aesthetic of Yeats, Eliot and Pound (Cambridge, 1991), The Dialect of Modernism: Race, Language and Twentieth-Century Literature (Oxford, 1994), Reading 1922: A Return to the Scene of the Modern (Oxford, 1999), Camera Works: Photography and the Twentieth-Century Word (Oxford, 2005), and Machine-Age Comedy (Oxford, 2009). His next book, Novelty: A History of the New will be published by University of Chicago Press in 2013. He has been awarded a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, a UC President's Research Fellowship, the Modernist Studies Association Book Prize (2006) and the Norman Foerster Award for the best article to appear in American Literature (1983). In 2012 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
This essay argues that the proper context for Pound’s famous slogan, “Make It New,” is not the beginning of modernism but its end, since it turns out that the slogan was not at all well-known until the 1950s. Restoring the history of the phrase, from its beginning in Pound’s work to its final celebrity, will also allow us to see how complex and contested the value of novelty was in the twentieth century.
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